General election 2024: Tory turmoil spreads north as Douglas Ross says he'll resign as Scottish leader

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Tory turmoil seems to have become a permanent feature of the general election campaign - and now it is spreading north.

As if Rishi Sunak's astonishing blunder of abandoning last week's D-Day commemorations early was not enough, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has now announced he will be quitting as soon as the election is over - and he will leave Holyrood too, if he is elected to Westminster.

Douglas Ross has announced he will stand down as Scottish Conservative leader. Photo: PA WireDouglas Ross has announced he will stand down as Scottish Conservative leader. Photo: PA Wire
Douglas Ross has announced he will stand down as Scottish Conservative leader. Photo: PA Wire | PA Wire

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It’s the opposite of what he had promised to do. Mr Ross said as long ago as October 2021 that he did not intend to stand again at the next general election so he could focus on his Holyrood role, but last week he ousted sick colleague David Duguid to become the candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East on July 4. 

And the move has apparently provoked such anger among Tory MSPs that he felt he could not carry on.

One party insider said: "MSPs were shocked - they genuinely could not believe it. When they first heard, they thought it was a joke. Their understanding was he was going to stand down and would concentrate on Holyrood. with a view to the next Scottish Parliament election. He announced years ago he was standing down as MP for Moray."

But the insider said Mr Ross had always preferred the Commons to the Scottish Parliament.  "He enjoys Westminster, both the chamber and the social side much more than he enjoys Holyrood."

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David Duguid, who is recovering from a spinal illness, had planned to fight the election despite his ill health, but the party’s management board ruled he could not stand. Sources say Mr Duguid is well-liked and highly thought of in the area. “Even opponents regard him as a hard working local MP - and he was really keen to stand.” It is understood that although his mobility is currently limited, it is expected to come back.

The Scottish Tories had been hoping to perform better in the election than the party down south. With the SNP in second place in each of the six Scottish seats the Tories won last time, they believed they were in a good position to retain them and even win a couple of others from the Nationalists.

The Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat is expected to be close, but some senior Tories are said to believe the party can still win it despite the row now surrounding it.

Meanwhile, names floated as potential successors as Scottish Tory leader include current deputy Meghan Gallacher, health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane and justice spokesman Russell Findlay.

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