Douglas Ross ‘optimistic’ about Scottish Tory election chances
Douglas Ross has said he is “very optimistic” about the Scottish Conservatives’ chances going into the next general election despite current polls suggesting the party face a near wipe-out.
Speaking in Edinburgh on Friday morning, the Scottish Tory leader attacked what he dubbed the “Holyrood consensus” and said his MSPs were “proudly” the “non-conformists” at the Scottish Parliament.
He accused all the other opposition parties of supporting SNP plans, including backing the Gender Recognition Reform Bill last month.
On the next general election, expected in 2024, Ross said: “If you don’t support the nationalists, the only party you can vote for at the next election is the Scottish Conservatives. We’re the only party that is offering that alternative vision for Scotland. No one else is doing that.”
He accepted the “political turbulence” of the last year had “impacted our party in Scotland”, but he insisted the Conservatives were the only “natural opponents” of the SNP.
He attacked Labour for backing SNP policies, saying: “Labour are not an opposition to the SNP. Labour cannot deliver an alternative. That is why it is essential that the Scottish Conservatives step up to offer voters a real choice at the next election.”
Ross announced his party’s spring conference would focus on the economy and public services, with an eye to framing the manifesto for the 2026 Scottish Parliament election.
And he talked down any suggestion that he would not still be leader by that point, adding that rumours about his position “never came from me”.
Asked about decisions he had taken in the last 12 months, he said there were “always opportunities in hindsight to make different decisions” and over the next few weeks he would “focus on the future”.
Pressed on whether he regretted supporting Boris Johnson and backing Liz Truss’ mini-budget, he added: “Everyone looks at their decisions and reviews them… You look back, you reflect, you move on. I’ve always been of that mind.”
He was also asked about the UK Government’s possible blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which was passed by MSPs at the end of the year.
Ross said it was “right” for the government to “take the time to look at all the options available to deal with” the bill, as it may not comply with the devolution settlement.