Ross to hint at rowing back of tactical voting comments in conference speech

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross looks set to use his conference speech to row back on previous comments suggesting a push for tactical voting to unseat the SNP in Scotland.

Mr Ross caused consternation in his own party last month when he used an interview in the Daily Telegraph to say voters should “get behind” the candidate best placed to defeat the SNP.

But within hours of the comments a spokesman for the UK Conservative Party said it was “emphatically not” their position, while a report in the Scotsman quoted senior Tory MSPs saying they were not consulted about the comments.

Speaking at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow on Friday, Mr Ross is expected to tell attendees “the best way” to beat the SNP is to “vote for the Scottish Conservatives”.

He will say: “This failing SNP Government, mired in scandal and sleaze, cannot focus on governing our country.

“They cannot tackle the big challenges Scotland faces.

“It is painfully obvious that Humza Yousaf is not up to the job of being First Minister.

“At the general election next year, people across Scotland have a choice.

“They can give Humza Yousaf a blank cheque; the thumbs up to continue to lead an incompetent government and to focus on the priorities of the SNP.

“Or they can unseat SNP MPs and their referendum obsession, and send a strong signal to Humza Yousaf’s Government to focus on their real priorities.

“And the best way that Scots can do this in seats right across our country is to vote for the Scottish Conservatives.”

Douglas Ross
The Scottish Tory leader will address his party’s conference on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Ross is also expected to announce his party will push to ensure local communities will have a “final say” on energy developments in their area, attacking Scottish Government overturning of planning decisions on wind farms as a “Holyrood power grab”.

“That is why I am announcing today that we will bring forward a Community Energy Benefit Law,” he will tell party members.

“This would ensure that communities, not the SNP Government, have the final say on energy developments in their local area.

“And it would force developers and operators to negotiate deals that make meaningful financial payments to communities – which could be used directly for cutting energy bills.

“This would not only create an incentive to unblock planning barriers to energy infrastructure, but also ensure that families and communities benefit from living close to windfarms or power stations.”

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf ‘is not up to the job’, Douglas Ross is expected to tell Scottish Tory members (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Ross will also use his speech to attack the ongoing turmoil within the SNP, claiming the events of recent months “have blown a huge hole in the economic case for independence”.

He will say to the party faithful: “The SNP cannot even manage their own accounts, how can they be trusted on the finances of an independent Scotland?

“Nobody will ever believe a nationalist on currency, pensions and balancing the books ever again.

“We have always known that our arguments on trade, currency and jobs were stronger – and the 2014 referendum proved that.

“But now the SNP lack any credibility.

“Through their own blunders, the nationalists have crashed the case for independence.”

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said Mr Ross will be “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” at the party’s two-day conference, adding: “After 13 years of failure, the Tories are out of touch and out of time.

“This economically illiterate and morally bankrupt party has been a disaster for Scotland and provided endless cover for the SNP,” the Labour MP said.

“They crashed the economy and it will cost Scots thousands of pounds for years to come.

“They will continue to sink to new lows as they get more and more desperate, but change is coming with a Labour government.”