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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to stand down after election

Douglas Ross has announced that he will stand down as Scottish Conservative leader after the general election on 4 July.

Mr Ross revealed that he would also quit as an MSP and leave the Scottish Parliament if he wins the Westminster seat of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

The party leader – dubbed “three jobs Ross” – was heavily criticised for his shock move to run for a Westminster seat after promising in 2022 he would focus entirely on his role at Holyrood.

It followed his controversial decision to replace the deselected candidate David Duguid, recovering for a spinal illness in hospital, in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Mr Ross has also faced allegations that he previously used Westminster expenses to help him travel to football matches in his role as a professional linesman.

“I have served as MP, MSP and leader for over three years now and believed I could continue to do so if re-elected to Westminster, but on reflection, that is not feasible,” said Mr Ross.

He said he was committed to “fighting and winning” the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency, and said people of the area should know they would “receive my complete focus and attention”.

Mr Ross added: “I will therefore stand down as Leader following the election on July 4th, 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.”

The Scottish Tory leader – who has been working as a professional football linesman as well as an MP and MSP – has been under huge pressure to set out his plans since he announced he was running for a Westminster seat on Thursday.

Andy Maciver, former Scottish Tory spin doctor, told i that he had expected Mr Ross to step aside as leader at some point after the general election.

“For him personally, this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it,” said the co-host of the Holyrood Sources podcast.

Mr Maciver said Mr Ross saw no future for himself Holyrood, given the party is expected to lose many seats at the 2026 Scottish Parliamentary election.

“It’s not a state secret – he doesn’t particularly Holyrood. He likes being at Westminster. It’s the natural place for him – he’s an aggressive politician, he’s not a consensus politician,” Mr Maciver added.

However, Mr Ross has been warned that he faces a “Portillo moment” if his gamble to stand at the general election backfires.

James Mitchell, professor of public policy at Edinburgh University, told the i the “big gamble” to switch his focus from Holyrood to Westminster could backfire in the “hyper-marginal” seat.

“He will be damaged and embarrassed if he loses. It would be Scottish version of a Michael Portillo moment – everyone will be watching.”

Mr Ross has also come under pressure to set out his travel claims in full, following allegations that he used his Westminster expenses to help in his job as a football linesman.

A report in the Sunday Mail newspaper claimed that Scottish Tory advisers to Mr Ross raised concerns over 28 expense claims which may have been combined with travel for his linesman’s job.

SNP leader John Swinney said that if the report was true it would be a “potential misuse of funds”, as he urged Mr Ross to “set out” all the relevant information on his travel claims.

However, Mr Ross told the Sunday Mail that it was “not possible” for him to travel from London to a football match since he would not have had his kit with him.

The Scottish Tory leader said: “Nobody spoke to me about this. I have only ever claimed expenses related to my role as a member of parliament. These have all been agreed by IPSA but I have no issue with them being scrutinised again.”

It follows criticism by allies of Mr Duguid, in hospital with a serious spinal illness, who last week condemned the Scottish Tory party’s management board for replacing him in the north-east seat with Mr Ross.

Mr Duguid said no-one in the management board had even visited him in hospital. The outgoing MP said he was “very saddened by the way this whole episode has unfolded”.

Scottish Labour had said Mr Ross’ “shoddy treatment” of his colleague showed that the Tory party was “morally bankrupt”, while the SNP said it showed “the nasty party just got nastier.”

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said Mr Ross’s planned exit as leader showed that the “chaotic Tory party is out of time and out of ideas”. She added: “It’s no wonder Douglas Ross has given up on trying to resuscitate the Scottish Tories’ flailing campaign.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Mr Ross’s announcement on Monday was “yet more proof of a Conservative party in abject disarray”.

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