Ross’s decision to stand ‘straight out of the Farage playbook’, says Forbes

The Scottish Conservative leader will seek the Tory nomination for the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat.

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes hit out at Douglas Ross over his U-turn to stand for election to Westminster
Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes hit out at Douglas Ross over his U-turn to stand for election to Westminster (Jane Barlow/PA)

Douglas Ross’s decision to stand at the General Election is “straight out of the Farage playbook”, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes has said.

Mr Ross announced on Thursday morning that he is to seek the nomination for the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat after the Tories barred ex-Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid from standing due to ill health.

The decision came despite previous assurances from Mr Ross – who was the MP for Moray in the last Parliament – that he would stand down from Westminster to focus on his duties at Holyrood.

Speaking to journalists after deputising for John Swinney at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Forbes said the Scottish Tory leader had “betrayed” Mr Duguid.

“This is another broken promise from Douglas Ross and the Conservatives,” she said.

“The bigger concern that I have is that there is a local Conservative that was obviously supported by local Conservative members currently recovering in hospital who has been betrayed, ejected from his seat in order to allow Douglas Ross to stand.

“That raises profoundly big questions for the Conservatives and also their commitment to the north east.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross announced his intentions on Thursday morning
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross announced his intentions on Thursday morning (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She said the saga is a “new low” for Mr Ross and his party.

Referring to accusations from unnamed MSPs in newspaper reports, Ms Forbes added: “To quote one of Douglas Ross’s own colleagues, ‘this is straight out of the Farage playbook’ and I do not think it portrays the Conservatives in any decent light.”

Nigel Farage announced earlier this week he will stand as the Reform UK candidate in Clacton, Essex, having previously said he would not run for election.

Addressing journalists at a hastily-arranged press conference to announce his intentions earlier on Thursday, Mr Ross said: “Over the last 12 hours, I have thought long and hard about this and considered the options.

“I’ve spoken with my wife, my family, colleagues and local members.

“I’ve decided I need to lead from the front, so this evening I will put myself forward for nomination as Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”

He praised Mr Duguid, describing him as a “friend and colleague” who has “built a strong and impressive reputation as a champion for fishing and many other issues”.

Turning to his own chances, he added: “I will stand in the seat and I intend to beat the SNP, just as I’ve done in the past, so we can get focused on the top priorities of local people.”

Those issues, including employment, the NHS and roads, will be “key” to Mr Ross for the next five years if he is elected.

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said Mr Duguid was “unfortunately unable to stand”, adding: “David has been an excellent MP and great local representative for the last seven years.

“We thank David for all his hard work for the party, we look forward to his recovery to full health, and hope that he will want to rejoin frontline politics in the future.

“Douglas Ross will be our local candidate in this seat, where we will seek to beat the SNP and switch the focus away from their independence obsession and on to the issues that really matter.”

Mr Duguid issued a statement on Wednesday evening saying he had been barred from standing in the seat for health reasons.

In a social media post, he wrote: “Last week I informed you of my rehabilitation progress and how I was looking forward to campaigning (albeit without knocking on doors) for the upcoming election.

“I am pleased to say that my recovery programme is well on schedule thanks to the excellent NHS staff in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Spinal Injury Unit.

“Notwithstanding this, and despite my having been adopted by our local members, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has informed me tonight that they have decided not to put me forward as their chosen candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”

It is understood Mr Duguid was visited by party officials twice in the past week, and there were concerns about how the stress of campaigning could impact his recovery.

Mr Ross’s decision to run also raised the ire of opposition parties, with Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie saying it is clear “there is no promise flip flop Ross won’t break”.

Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie said being an MSP is a full-time job
Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie said being an MSP is a full-time job (Jane Barlow/PA)

She added: “Douglas Ross is treating his constituents with contempt by refusing to give up one of his three jobs and his shoddy treatment of his own colleague shows how morally bankrupt the Tories are.

“The Scottish Tories can no longer attempt to distance themselves from the carnage we have seen in Downing Street – Douglas Ross has always been right at the heart of this rotten Tory Government.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie was also critical of Mr Ross – insisting being an MSP is a full-time job.

“Douglas Ross’s commitment to increasing the number of jobs he has is pretty boundless,” Mr Harvie said.

“People up and down the country are living with the cost-of-living crisis, they are living with the results of low pay that the Tory Government presides over and yet someone like Douglas Ross thinks he can never have enough high-paid jobs. It’s pretty shameless.”

Mr Harvie described being an MP or an MSP as “serious jobs” that “require somebody’s full-time attention”.

He added: “The idea that you can just suddenly decide you will treat it as a part-time job and skip up and down between two Parliaments at once I think is shocking.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Mr Duguid is a “capable parliamentarian” who has respect across the aisles.

He added: “As for Douglas’s decision, that’s really a matter for Douglas and the internal workings of the Conservative Party.”