Action meet consequence: Douglas Ross' decision to resign could cost his party dearly

10 June 2024, 17:48 | Updated: 11 June 2024, 10:10

Douglas Ross decided to stand in the General Election and now he's quitting as party leader.
Douglas Ross decided to stand in the General Election and now he's quitting as party leader. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Mess around, find out.

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Douglas Ross is the latest Scottish political party leader to feel the full force of that succinct, if usually expletive-laden, phrase.

The last one being Humza Yousaf. So convinced was he that he could end his government agreement with the Scottish Greens and they'd still support him in a motion of no confidence, that it never crossed his mind they would do the opposite. That mis-judgement ended his career as First Minister pdq.

For Ross the MAFO moment came when he decided he would stand in this General Election - and do it by stepping into a sick man's shoes.

Such was the internal fury in the Scottish Conservatives that he had gone back on a pledge to concentrate on Holyrood and that the preferred candidate David Duguid had been effectively de-selected by the party because of illness, that Ross has now announced he's standing down as party leader after July 4, and if he does win the seat of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, he will also quit as an MSP.

Why just shoot yourself in one foot, when there's two of them?

There was also the small matter of Sunday newspaper headlines suggesting that he had used his Westminster travel expenses improperly - something he denies - but a story which only came to light because he had so angered folk within his own party.

Douglas Ross of course is arguing that he has come to the conclusion that should he win he will want to give his full focus to his new constituents. It's the sort of thing you say when you have a hoard of activists ready to down tools if you so much as glance at a jobs listing.

He has had four jobs since 2020 and until today criticism around that was like water off a duck's back - never at any time did he say that being an MP for Moray, MSP for the Highland and Islands, party leader in Scotland, and let's not forget a UEFA linesman, was an untenable situation where constituents might not be getting bang for their buck from their elected representative.

But now that's all changed. And Ross has handed his political opponents - especially the SNP - a campaign gift.

Who now will take seriously anything he says as Scottish Tory leader - a role he will no longer hold within a matter of weeks? And if he doesn't win this seat, how will his Highlands and Islands constituents feel that they seem to rate second best in his eyes?

All of this could also make John Swinney's SNP look like a better bet in the constituency battle.

Scottish politics moves at pace and the sands shift quickly. Douglas Ross is now up to his neck in it, and looking for Westminster to pull him to safety.

If nothing else, his 11th hour miscalculation to stand for election has made the fight between the Conservatives and the SNP in seven of Scotland's seats much harder for his party.