Scottish Tory leader forced into climbdown over 'vote Labour' call

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross forced into embarrassing climbdown over his call for Conservatives to tactically vote for Labour to damage the SNP at the next election

  • Mr Ross was slapped down by No10 at the weekend over his suggestion
  • Urged tactical voting be used to reduce nationalist seat numbers at Westminster

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has backtracked after suggesting Conservative voters back Labour at the next general election to help get rid of the SNP.

Mr Ross was slapped down by No10 at the weekend over his suggestion that tactical voting be used to reduce the nationalists’ seat numbers at Westminster.

With the SNP in crisis under new leader Humza Yousaf the polls have tightened with Labour, suggesting Anas Sarwar could make major inroads. 

But a Labour resurgence in Scotland could also open the door to Keir Starmer taking power as prime minister. 

Last night Mr Ross told Channel 4 News: ‘I’m very clear I want Scottish Conservative voters to vote Scottish Conservative, but we know, there are many seats across Scotland in the north, the north east and the central belt such as East Renfrewshire where the Scottish Conservatives are the challengers to the SNP.’

Mr Ross, who has been leader of the Scottish Conservatives since 2020, then suggested other parties should vote for the Tories to see the SNP ‘losing seats’ across Scotland.

Last night Mr Ross told Channel 4 News: ‘I’m very clear I want Scottish Conservative voters to vote Scottish Conservative’

Ross risked a split with Tory leader Rishi Sunak as he said people should ‘do what’s best for the country’ to help loosen Scottish National Party’s grip on Scotland.

He said: ‘If supporters of other parties unite behind the Scottish Conservatives we can see the SNP losing seats right across Scotland.

‘What I am focused on are the seats where the Scottish Conservatives are the main challengers, it’s up to other parties to decide what they want to do in the seats they are targeting.

‘Currently at Westminster and Holyrood, the Scottish Conservatives have more MSPs and MPs than Labour or the Liberal Democrats combined.

‘We are the biggest party challenging the SNP.’

But Mr Ross was challenged on these assertions by Channel 4 correspondent Ciaran Jenkins, who asked him if he was ‘sure about that’.

Mr Jenkins said: ‘How many seats are Labour in second place to the SNP in Westminster?’

Mr Ross said: ‘Less than the Scottish Conservatives.’

He was then presented with figures showing that Labour were actually second place to the SNP in 26 Westminster seats in Scotland, compared to 20 for the Tories.

Mr Ross said: ‘I haven’t discussed this directly with the Prime Minister, but we have discussed where we are going to be focusing our efforts in the forthcoming general election whenever that is called.’

The Tories rejected Mr Ross’s comments on Sunday, and said they were ’emphatically not the view of the Conservative Party’ and that voters should support the Tories ‘wherever they are standing’.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘Douglas Ross’ delusional reaction to the pressure his party faces is truly something to behold.

‘His desperate attempts to smear Labour at every turn smack of a leader and a party who know that their time is up.

‘Scotland deserves better than the scandal-hit SNP and the failing Tories.

‘The people of Scotland are crying out for change and Scottish Labour is working hard to deliver the change that Scotland needs.’

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