Douglas Ross: Scottish Conservative leader vows to ‘stand up’ to PM

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The new Scottish Conservative leader has insisted he will not be afraid to criticise Boris Johnson if he believes the prime minister is not acting in Scotland's best interests.

Douglas Ross quit as a Scotland Office minister in May over Dominic Cummings' trip to County Durham during lockdown.

Mr Ross said he did not believe his resignation would damage his relationship with Downing Street.

But he said the Scottish Tories were "distinct" from the UK party.

And he added: "If the prime minister has got it wrong, I will tell him".

Mr Ross was speaking to BBC Scotland in the second of a series of wide-ranging interviews with Scottish party leaders.

The SNP have accused the Moray MP of being "Boris Johnson's man in Scotland" since he was appointed party leader earlier this month following the sudden resignation of Jackson Carlaw.

Mr Ross said the prime minister had phoned to congratulate him on winning the leadership "within minutes".

But he said that his position as Scottish Conservative leader did not mean he had a duty to defend the UK government's actions.

Mr Ross, who backed Boris Johnson's campaign to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, said: "I will back the prime minister where I think it is right for Scotland.

"But if I think he has got something wrong, or where I think the government has got something wrong, I'll stand up and say that.

"I've shown people across Scotland that if I think the prime minister has got it wrong, I'll tell him".

Mr Ross would not be drawn on whether he believes Mr Johnson is a help or a hindrance to his party in Scotland, because "Mr Johnson is not standing for election to the Scottish Parliament next year".

He added: "The Scottish Conservatives are a distinct party from the UK party.

"We have different policies, we had different policies at the last election and we will have a range of policies going forward.

"But I am the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and I'm the one that's taking the fight to the SNP day in, day out and I'll continue to do that for the next nine months until the election in May next year."

Mr Ross said he believed there had been "presentational issues" over the UK government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He added: "No one can deny that Nicola Sturgeon presents her case very well.

"But actually people who think Scotland has had a totally different approach to dealing with this pandemic – that is not the case.

"It has been very similar across the four nations. The chief scientific officers have worked together in the four nations, the medical advisors and the advice to all governments has been the same and the decisions taken have been very similar".

The next Holyrood election

Mr Ross said his aspiration is to "take our party forward with a positive vision for the country and to lead Scotland as first minister".

He said would be launching a listening exercise to ensure that the party's manifesto for next May's Scottish Parliament election would be "reflective of Scotland as a whole".

This process would include organisations that "do not naturally naturally associate themselves with having conversations with the Scottish Conservatives".

He added: "Far too often, the SNP speaks to Scotland and tells people in Scotland what they should think, rather than listening to what people do think."

His predecessor, Jackson Carlaw, had already commissioned a full review of the party's policies – but Mr Ross said he currently had an "open book" when it came to policy.

Indyref2

Mr Ross said he was not surprised at Nicola Sturgeon's confirmation that there will an independence referendum pledge in the SNP's election manifesto as the party's raison d'etre is to "separate Scotland from the rest of the UK".

He said: "Putting that front and foremost on her manifesto again shows her priorities are for the separatists rather than securing a positive future for Scotland".

Mr Ross said the election campaign should instead be about how best to improve education, health and the economy rather than on "opening up the division of the past".

He agreed that opinion polls currently show a majority in favRead More – Source

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