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I have enjoyed working with Ross but respect decision to stand down – Sunak

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Douglas Ross had a record he could be proud of as Scottish Conservative leader.

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Douglas Ross visiting a factory

The Prime Minister insisted Douglas Ross has a record to be to be proud of, as the Scottish Tory announced he is quitting as party leader – and could also step down from Holyrood if he is voted in again as an MP at Westminster.

Rishi Sunak said while he had “enjoyed” working with the Scottish Tory leader, he respected his decision to step down from the post.

It comes after Mr Ross said it was “not feasible” for him to continue with the three positions he has held: as an MP, an MSP and Scottish Conservative leader.

However, he has also faced a backlash, including from some within his party, after stepping in to run in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat.

Former Scotland Office minister David Duguid had hoped to fight that seat, but the Scottish Conservative management board – which Mr Ross is part of – had ruled ill health meant he could not stand for election.

The party leader then went back on a commitment that he would quit Westminster to focus on Holyrood and his role as Scottish leader, announcing he would “lead from the front” and run as the candidate there.

Mr Ross, who became Scottish Tory leader in August 2020, had also been facing claims from the SNP that he had “serious” questions to answer over whether he used Westminster expenses to travel for his job as a football linesman.

Rishi Sunak, left, said that Douglas Ross had a record to be ‘proud’ of as Scottish Tory leader (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Ross, in a statement released on Monday, stressed he was “committed to fighting and winning the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency”.

He stated: “Should I be given the honour to represent the people and communities of this new seat, they should know being their MP would receive my complete focus and attention.

“I will, therefore, stand down as leader following the election on July 4, once a successor is elected.

“Should I win the seat, I will also stand down as an MSP to make way for another Scottish Conservative representative in Holyrood.”

He urged his party to unite, saying Tories “must now come together” and “fully focus” on the election campaign, where he said the could “beat the SNP in key seats up and down Scotland”.

Speaking to Sky News, he denied the decision was to do with his own political ambitions.

He said: “No, I don’t think anyone looking at me announcing today that I’m standing down as leader would necessarily come to that conclusion.

“What I am doing today is taking a decision, reflecting on comments made by colleagues and others, to focus on fully the people of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie branded Mr Ross a ‘nasty bully’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He told the broadcaster the situation with Mr Duguid was “a very difficult one”.

Commenting on his decision, Mr Sunak said he had worked with Mr Ross on issues such as “standing up to the SNP’s misguided gender recognition reforms” and promoting the North Sea energy sector.

He added: “I think that’s a track record that Douglas can be proud of and I’ve enjoyed working with him, but I respect his decision.”

However, politicians from rival parties branded the Scottish Tory leader a “nasty bully” – with the SNP demanding he should immediately quit his post as a Highlands and Islands MSP.

The SNP’s Seamus Logan, who is standing against Mr Ross in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, insisted: “Douglas Ross must resign as an MSP today.

“It’s clear he’s been forced out as Scottish Tory leader after his shameful behaviour over David Duguid and his growing expenses scandal.

“Voters deserve a dedicated MSP – not one who is hedging his bets in case he loses the  election.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said Mr Ross running for Westminster while Mr Duguid was “still convalescing in hospital” had meant “some in the Conservative Party have finally woken up and recognised what a nasty bully Douglas Ross is and they have had enough of him”.

He stated: “Douglas Ross has been perhaps the worst leader in the Scottish Tories’ history and the Scottish Parliament and indeed, Scottish politics, will be well rid of him.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Douglas Ross is the first senior Tory to fall as a result of this election campaign but I hope he’s not the last and, on July 4, if people vote Scottish Labour here in Scotland and they vote Labour across the UK then we can see every senior Tory fall across the country.

“So that this incompetent, failing, lying, sleazy, right-wing Government can be booted out of office after 14 years of carnage and chaos that has negatively impacted on Scotland and negatively impacted on communities across the country.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed Mr Ross’ decision was “yet more proof of a Conservative party in abject disarray”.

The Lib Dem said: “Just like the SNP, the Tories have been in power for too long, breaking rules and taking you for granted.”

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