It's healthy to challenge leadership sometimes, Douglas Ross says
Douglas Ross has said he believes it is “healthy to challenge leadership sometimes”, following high profile disagreements with Boris Johnson, with the Scottish Conservative leader telling his party conference that the public don’t expect politicians to be “clones”.
Ross added that he does feel that Johnson listens to him when he raises concerns, saying: “he does listen, he takes it on board and, you know, we move on and we progress from there.”
Ross made the comments during the first day of the Scottish Conservative party conference in Perth.
He also suggested that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would announce changes to the delivery of city and region growth deals in Scotland during the spending review next week, and said that he had been lobbying Johnson to increase the cap on seasonal workers allowed to work in Scotland.
Asked by interviewer Paul Malik of The Courier what he said to the PM after Johnson was reported to have described devolution as a “disaster,” Ross said that it was clear from his conversations that Johnson does believe in devolution.
He echoed Johnson’s later remarks, saying that what he had meant was that he has “frustrations” about the SNP’s performance in government over the last 13 years in areas such as education and health care.
Ross said: “These are all issues that people look out with devolution and think, actually, we can do better than that and I want to take that positive message to say we can do better than that.
“And you do better than that if the government in Scotland is focused more on the services that people use day in day out, rather than trying to separate our country.”
Pressed for more detail on what he said to Johnson following the remark on devolution, Ross said that he does not reveal what is said in individual discussions.
But he added: “I don't think it's the worst thing in the world for people to see and understand that you can be in the same party but you can look at things in different ways.
“And actually we can work together, where it's in the best interest of Scotland and we can challenge each other - he'll challenge me and I'll challenge him, if we don't think we've taken the right approach for Scotland.
“I think it's healthy that we can have that debate, we can articulate that debate, and we can come to a conclusion that yes we both ultimately and positively believe in devolution, but there are aspects of that that haven't delivered for Scotland over the last 13 and a half years of the SNP being in power.”
Ross said “robust debate” is essential in order to progress politics, and said that the “healthy” to challenge leadership.
He said: “People don't expect their politicians to be clones, and all agree the exact same thing at the exact same point.
“I know that's quite alien to members of the SNP because they're not allowed, due to their constitution, to take a different approach from the Scottish leadership.
“I think it's healthy to challenge leadership sometimes, because ultimately, that gets the best decisions and the best results for people in Scotland.”
Asked if he feels Johnson listens to him when he voices his disagreements, Ross said: “Every time I sit down with the Prime Minister whether it's physically or virtually when we speak on the phone, then yeah, he does listen he takes it on board and, you know, we move on and we progress from there.”
Ross spoke of his disagreement with Johnson on the limit to the number of migrant workers that can come to Scotland under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme, which is currently capped at 10,000.
He said that he has made a “very strong case” for expanding the scheme to Johnson and his cabinet and said it is a message being heard by Number 10.
He added that if his recommendation is ignored that he will “keep going back and back and back” to make the case.