Fury at ‘sordid’ deselection of sick Tory MP at last minute to make way for Douglas Ross

The leader of the Scottish Tories, Douglas Ross, has announced that he intends to run for Westminster after previously planning to concentrate on the Scottish parliament.

But the U-turn has come with huge controversy, after neighbouring Scottish Tory MP David Duguid was ruthlessly deselected by the Scottish Conservative management board at the last minute to make way for Mr Ross in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Mr Duguid, who was the MP for Banff and Buchan before the boundary changes, had recently had spinal surgery but was on course to make a full recovery. He had been readopted by his local party and told by doctors that he could campaign as long as he did not go door-knocking.

The saga is the latest in a series of selection-related rows that have affected both the Tories and Labour. Yesterday, Tory members in the constituency of Basildon and Billericay were outraged at party chair Richard Holden being foisted on them on a one-man shortlist.

Douglas Ross insists he can beat the SNP in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East (PA Wire)
Douglas Ross insists he can beat the SNP in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East (PA Wire)

Last night it emerged that Mr Duguid had been informed that he was no longer the candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East and had been ditched by the party’s Scottish leadership at the final minute.

This morning it was revealed that Mr Ross, who was previously the MP for Moray and had intended to step down from Westminster politics, will replace him.

Ballot Box Scotland, a Scottish version of the Britain Elects poll aggregator, tweeted: “I try to be careful with my words on this project, but to deselect at last minute an unwell MP; stand again yourself after having said you wouldn’t; in a safer seat than your current? Sordid.”

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, now the leader of Alba, said: “David Duguid is a decent man, well thought of locally, whose illness has drawn great sympathy. Douglas Ross will reap a whirlwind from this sort of behaviour.”

Political analyst Mark McGeoghegan noted: “I’m not going to pretend to have any special insight into what’s going on in the Scottish Tories, but this very much looks like Douglas Ross getting a seriously ill MP and candidate, David Duguid, deselected so he can stand instead.”

Addressing journalists on Thursday, Mr Ross said: “Over the last 12 hours, I have thought long and hard about this and considered the options. I’ve spoken with my wife, my family, colleagues and local members.

“I’ve decided I need to lead from the front, so this evening I will put myself forward for nomination as Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”

Mr Ross praised Mr Duguid, describing him as a “friend and colleague” who has “built a strong and impressive reputation as a champion for fishing and many other issues”.

David Duguid has been deselected at the last minute after having surgery (UK parliament)
David Duguid has been deselected at the last minute after having surgery (UK parliament)

Turning to his own chances, the former Moray MP – who had previously said he would step down from the Commons to focus on his duties at Holyrood – said: “I will stand in the seat and I intend to beat the SNP, just as I’ve done in the past, so we can get focused on the top priorities of local people.”

Those issues, including employment, the NHS and roads, will be “key” to Mr Ross for the next five years if he is elected, he said.

“I fully expect the SNP to throw absolutely everything they’ve got at me. They will mobilise teams from the central belt to come north and deliver leaflets.

“John Swinney will pay the area a rare visit; SNP headquarters in Edinburgh will pour money into Aberdeen North and Moray East.”

But, he added, if local people “come together”, the Tories can “keep the nationalists out”.

Mr Ross insisted that the SNP are “down, now let’s get them out”.

Mr Duguid issued a statement on Wednesday evening saying he had been barred from standing in the seat for health reasons. In a social media post, he wrote: “Last week I informed you of my rehabilitation progress and how I was looking forward to campaigning (albeit without knocking on doors) for the upcoming election.

“I am pleased to say that my recovery programme is well on schedule thanks to the excellent NHS staff in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Spinal Injury Unit.

“Notwithstanding this, and despite my having been adopted by our local members, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has informed me tonight that they have decided not to put me forward as their chosen candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”