Douglas Ross: Partygate fines will not damage Tory vote at local elections

Partygate fines will not negatively impact the Scottish Conservatives at the local elections, Douglas Ross has said.

The Scottish Tory leader said he is “very optimistic” going into the May 5 vote.

That is despite anger after Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a fixed-penalty notice in relation to Downing Street gatherings during lockdown, alongside his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Since the fines were issued earlier this week, Mr Ross faced criticism from opposition leaders after he said it is not the right time for the Prime Minister to resign because of the war in Ukraine.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in Davidson Mains, Edinburgh, on the campaign trail for Scottish Conservatives ahead of the local government elections. Picture date: Wednesday April 13, 2022.

In January when news of Downing Street parties first emerged, he was among the leading voices calling for Mr Johnson to go.

It has been suggested that Mr Ross’s stance could hurt the Scottish Tories in the upcoming election.

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He told reporters on Friday that his stance is justified and he is confident voters will back Tory candidates next month.

He said: “I think voters can make the difference between national issues which are rightly angering people. And I’m angry.

“I think the Prime Minister’s actions were completely unacceptable. I said that back in January and had it not been for a war in Ukraine, my position would be the same.

“But I also have to look at the situation where we have atrocities happening in Europe and innocent men, women and children being murdered on a daily basis by war criminal Vladimir Putin and his troops.

“These national issues are clearly dominating much of the national coverage, but people also know that they’re electing local councillors for the next five years.”

Looking ahead to May 5, Mr Ross said: “I’m very optimistic. We have great candidates right across the country. We’re the only party standing a candidate in every ward in mainland Scotland.

“I’ve been getting around all the council areas, knocking on doors and listening to concerns.”

He said there is “no doubt that national issues do come up” with voters, but he claimed they are more concerned with local priorities such as potholes and education standards.

He added: “That’s why we’re saying it should be about local priorities, not the nationalist priority – because we know Nicola Sturgeon will use every vote for the SNP as another proxy vote for her to hold another referendum to divide the country all over again and split us up from the rest of the UK.”

Mr Ross, who launched the Conservative manifesto in Glasgow on Thursday, said he will not be drawn into speculation about whether the Prime Minister could receive additional fines for attending multiple Downing Street gatherings during national lockdowns.

He told the PA news agency: “My position on this has been to answer questions where I know the situation.

“I’ve never shied away from it and in some cases it can be unpopular and the easy option for me would be to say that Boris Johnson should go immediately as that fixed-penalty notice was issued.

“I’m looking at the information in front of me so I give as honest an answer I can about the circumstances in front of me.

“But I can’t second guess, I don’t have a crystal ball to see what is going to happen in the future.”