Douglas Ross vows to strip power from Holyrood as he launches bid to lead Scottish Tories
Scottish Conservative leadership candidate Douglas Ross has vowed to take power out of the hands of the Scottish Parliament and give it to local communities, as he officially launches his bid to take over the party.
Mr Ross, who has served as MP for Moray since 2017, is the only declared candidate to take over the party leadership from Jackson Carlaw, who quit on Thursday after just six months in the role amid unhappiness with his job performance.
With senior figures pressing for Mr Ross to be allowed an unopposed tilt at the leadership, he launched his campaign on Saturday morning alongside Ruth Davidson – one of the party’s most successful and popular leaders.
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Speaking at the campaign launch in Aberdeen, Mr Ross revealed he has enough nominations to make it onto the ballot ahead of the 5 August deadline, vowing to build a “diverse coalition of Scottish voters”.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon is right, there has been a power grab. But it’s not been performed by the UK Government but by her own.
“Over 13 years too much power has been drawn into the SNP’s hands in Edinburgh and our regions, cities and towns have lost control.”
He added: “For many communities, in the north of Scotland, in the south of Scotland and around the country, Holyrood in Edinburgh seems as distant as Westminster did in the days before devolution.”
The leadership candidate firmly ruled out a second independence referendum, making clear: “We had that debate. We had that vote six years ago and we were told it was a once in a generation event. What I want to do is leave that in the past.”
Ms Davidson, who is still an MSP, has been asked to return to the fray as interim leader if Mr Ross is elected, as he does not currently sit in the Scottish Parliament.
Under the plan, she would deputise at First Minister’s Questions until the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021, when Mr Ross plans to contest a seat.
At the same time that Mr Ross is seeking a way into Holyrood, Ms Davidson has been handed a peerage, setting up her eventual departure for the House of Lords.
Ruth Davidson and Douglas Ross
She said Mr Ross had asked her to return to the front benches to help the party’s “fightback”.
Referring to his role as a football referee, she said: “Like the dozens of centre forwards that he’s flagged offside down the years, I soon realised that challenging him – I was never going to win.”
Ms Davidson added: “I don’t want to labour the past but I do know a bit about party leadership. And I know how tough it can be.
“I know it takes dedication, determination, hard graft and 100% commitment to achieving your goals.
“Plus the strength of character to take the blows to brush yourself off to stick to the course. Douglas has these qualities in spades.”
She made clear: “I’m not coming back as the leader of the Scottish Conservative party. I’m very, very happy, proud and excited to call Douglas Ross my boss.”
Mr Ross would bring some baggage to the role, however.
He was forced to apologise in 2017 after saying he would make “tougher enforcement against Gypsy travellers” his priority if he were made Prime Minister for a day.
Following in the footsteps of Ms Davidson, who clashed with the UK leadership over Brexit, Mr Ross is no ally of Boris Johnson – quitting as a Government minister in May when Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings was accused of flouting lockdown.
Additional reporting by Press Association