Scottish Tory leader withdraws demand for Boris Johnson's resignation over partygate scandal

10 March 2022, 19:44

Douglas Ross with Boris Johnson
Douglas Ross with Boris Johnson. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and the first senior Tory to call for Boris Johnson to go over the partygate scandal, has withdrawn his letter demanding the Prime Minister's resignation.

The Moray MP, who also sits as an MSP in Holyrood, said the situation in Ukraine meant it was not the time for Mr Johnson to be replaced.

The shock move came just hours after the party had confirmed the Prime Minister will speak at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen next weekend.

Mr Ross, who was dismissed by Jacob Rees-Mogg as a "lightweight" after demanding the Prime Minister go, was immediately criticised by his opponents as "spineless" and "utterly humiliating" and questions were asked about his leadership of the Scottish party.

In a statement Mr Ross said: "The middle of an international crisis is not the time to be discussing resignations, unless it’s the removal from office of Vladimir Putin.

"There will be a time and place to debate partygate but, as even Keir Starmer said at the weekend, we should put that on pause while there is war in Europe.

"It's essential that we all fully support what the UK Government is doing. In light of Russia's appalling actions, the government and Prime Minister need our backing, and they have mine and the whole Scottish Conservative party.

"We should all be focused on what we can do to help the Ukrainian people in any capacity."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said the move was "an utterly humiliating U-turn" and that the MSPs who had backed him would be "furious he had marched them up a hill and now left them looking ridiculous."

He added: "Only a few weeks ago he was categorical that Boris Johnson should be removed from Downing Street over his repeated rule-breaking. Now apparently he will roll out the carpet for the Prime Minister at the Scottish Conservative conference and pretend that the no-confidence letter that he submitted with such fanfare never happened.

“It is ironic that, having tried to get his boss removed from office, spineless Douglas Ross has ended up catastrophically undermining his own position – and is no doubt on borrowed time as the apparent ‘leader’ of the Scottish Tories.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: "We are right to be defending democracy in Ukraine, but that doesn't mean we stop doing democracy at home.

"This is a Prime Minister that has broken his own laws and shown contempt for the people of the UK.

"Douglas Ross should not be using the Ukraine crisis to go back on his principles.

“He knows Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister. "The United Kingdom, including Scotland, deserves better."

And former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP, said the Scottish Tories were "deeply embarrassed" by Boris Johnson, but that they had shown they had "the backbone of a jellyfish."

He added: “It is difficult to change Prime Minister in the midst of an international crisis when we should be focusing on assisting the people of Ukraine but he should have been gone long before now.”