Douglas Ross: Tories reject Scottish leader’s Labour vote callon April 9, 2023 at 10:43 am

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Douglas Ross says politicians should look “beyond their own narrow party agenda and do what’s best for the country”.

Douglas Ross, a close up picture from a lower angle with branding for the Scottish Conservative Party visible behind himImage source, PA Media

The Conservative party has rejected a suggestion from its leader in Scotland that voters could tactically back Labour to oust the SNP.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Douglas Ross said “where there is the strongest candidate to beat the SNP, you get behind that candidate.”

It would be a case of parties doing “what’s best for the country”, he said.

“This is emphatically not the view of the Conservative Party,” a Tory spokesperson said.

“We want people to vote for Conservative candidates wherever they are standing as that’s the best way to keep Labour and the SNP out.”

In many seats in Scotland, it will be Labour or the Lib Dems who are seen as the most likely challengers to the SNP at the next general election.

While local council elections are taking place across much of England and Northern Ireland in May, no seats are up for grabs in Scotland or Wales.

The next general election must take place on or before 28 January 2025, but it is widely expected that one will be held in the weeks or months before this date.

Mr Ross said the Conservatives were saying to Scottish voters that independence and another referendum is “not a priority” and “people don’t want to see that division all over again”.

In his interview, Mr Ross said: “The public know how to tactically vote in Scotland…

“I will always encourage Scottish Conservative voters to vote Scottish Conservatives,

“But I think generally the public can see, and they want the parties to accept, that where there is a strongest candidate to beat the SNP, you get behind that candidate.

“If parties maybe look a bit beyond their own narrow party agenda to what’s best for the country – and for me as Scottish Conservative leader, what would be best is if we see this grip that the SNP have on Scotland at the moment is loosened.”

‘Strongest candidate’

However, the chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, Craig Hoy, told BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show that Mr Ross had not encouraged people to vote Labour.

“Douglas was quite clear saying the Scottish Conservatives should always advocate that people should vote for the Conservative party,” he said.

“He said generally the public can see that they want the parties to accept where there is the strongest candidate.”

He added: “In many seats across Scotland, particularly because of the weakness and the scandal engulfing the SNP, the Scottish Conservatives have the opportunity to point out that we are the only alternative to the SNP.

“In those seats – in the north east, some in the central belt, East Renfrewshire, Ayr and in the south of Scotland – we will be saying to voters of all parties there that if you want to defeat the SNP vote for the only candidate who can defeat the SNP and that is the Scottish Conservative candidate.”

It is not the first time Douglas Ross and Scottish Conservatives have broken with the main party line.

In January last year, the Scottish leader said the position of the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “no longer tenable” after Mr Johnson admitted attending a Downing Street party during lockdown.

Mr Ross later rowed back on this position following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Ross’s remarks come at a time of crisis for the SNP in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as first minister and party leader, and the arrest of her husband Peter Murrell.

Mr Murrell, the former SNP chief executive, has been questioned over the party’s finances. He has since been released without charge pending further investigation.

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In her first public comments since the arrest on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said she would “fully cooperate” with the police if they asked to interview her.

Asked if she had been questioned by officers, Ms Sturgeon replied: “I haven’t, but I will fully cooperate with the police as and when they request that, if indeed they do.”

She was talking to reporters outside her Glasgow home on Saturday, when taking questions after giving a brief statement.

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