Scottish Tories want interim leader to replace Douglas Ross before leadership vote

Douglas Ross arrives at P&J Live for Thursday's count
-Credit: (Image: Michal Wachucik/PA Wire/PA Images)

The Scottish Conservatives have called for Douglas Ross to be replaced by an interim leader when he returns to Holyrood after being unseated as an MP.

Sources have reportedly rejected the idea of the former Tory leader taking charge of the group after the Scottish parliament’s summer recess amid a push for a large-scale contest to replace him.

Mr Ross lost Aberdeenshire North and Moray East by 942 votes to the SNP's Seamus Logan in Thursday's General Election after Reform UK surged in the constituency, writes the Scottish Daily Express.

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His was the only loss as the Tories defied expectations of a collapse in Scotland, including briefings by internal critics of a “shambolic” campaign, to return five MPs. This is despite the party’s share of the vote nearly halving to 13 per cent.

Ross announced that he would quit as party leader after a furious internal reaction to him replacing David Duguid, the former MP, who was barred from standing by party bosses because of ill health.

One source said that Ross was “virtually persona non grata among his fellow MSPs”, which would make it almost impossible for him to continue in post while his replacement is chosen.

Another source said that an interim appointment would allow a wide contest, with multiple MSPs believed to be interested in standing for the position and a desire to avoid a “stitch-up” succession plan by senior Tory figures.

Liz Smith, the party’s finance spokeswoman, was mentioned by multiple sources as a potential interim leader who would front the party at parliamentary sessions such as first minister’s questions during what is expected to be a "robust contest."

Ross will remain a backbench MSP at Holyrood. Ross said the Conservative Party across the UK had endured a "historically bad" result but did not regret his last-minute decision to stand.

In a BBC interview, he blamed the Reform vote for his seat loss but said a drift to the right by the Tories was not "inevitable."

He said: "The Reform vote was clearly the big factor here with it being the highest Reform vote anywhere in Scotland. It’s been a difficult, difficult night for the entire Conservative Party."