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by Margaret Taylor
06 June 2024
Kate Forbes accuses Douglas Ross of 'betrayal' over Westminster U-turn

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes stood in for John Swinney at FMQs | Alamy

Kate Forbes accuses Douglas Ross of 'betrayal' over Westminster U-turn

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes has accused Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross of “betraying” former Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid by standing in his place at the general election.

Duguid, a former Scotland Office minister who held the seat since breaking a 30-year streak for the SNP in 2017, announced last night that he had effectively been de-selected from standing in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, a new constituency created under boundary changes that take effect for the upcoming election.

Posting on social media platform X, Duguid, who is recovering from a serious illness that affected his spine and saw him spend four weeks in intensive care, said he had been adopted by local members and was “looking forward to campaigning” but had been informed by the party at the national level that his name would not be put forward for the ballot.

Ross, who represented the Moray seat at Westminster until parliament was dissolved last month, had said he would stand down to focus on his Holyrood responsibilities. However, he used a hastily called press conference to this morning announce that he would be standing in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East instead.

Noting that “the party management board concluded that David could not proceed as our candidate”, Ross said he was standing because “we need a candidate to fight this seat at short notice”.

During today’s session of First Minister’s Questions Ross pushed Forbes – who was filling in for John Swinney, who is taking part in D-Day commemorations in Normandy – on the SNP’s commitment to the north east oil and gas industry.

She responded by saying Ross has “big questions” to answer on the region.

“There's some good, big questions for him this very day, on a day that he betrays a Conservative candidate in the north east, who the Conservatives trusted to be a minister in the UK Government, who is currently recovering from ill health, who was planning to stand in the next election and who was supported by local members,” she said.

“Now, I am old enough to remember when Douglas Ross said he was not going to stand again for Westminster because he wanted to focus on Holyrood in 2026.”

It came after Ross opened the session by asking Forbes whether the SNP believes the granting of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea “is essential, not only for our energy security, but to protect tens of thousands of jobs here in Scotland”.

Although licensing is reserved to Westminster, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon opposed developments at Cambo and Rosebank and said no further drilling should take place in Scottish waters. At the start of last year her government said it could no longer support its previous position of "maximising economic recovery" of fossil fuel reserves.

The government is due to publish its energy strategy in the coming weeks, but during an STV leader’s debate earlier this week Swinney refused to be drawn on whether its position on drilling had changed.

During a campaign stop in Linlithgow, Forbes yesterday said the SNP had “never said no” to new oil and gas licences but rather that “all further licensing must be compatible with a climate-change test”.

She reiterated that position in the chamber, telling Ross that the SNP is “absolutely crystal clear in our support for a just transition for Scotland's oil and gas sector which recognises the declining nature of the North Sea Basin and is in line with our climate change commitments”.

“The difference between this party and the Conservatives is that we will never abandon our workers, we will never leave a legacy of inequality, and we will never destroy communities like the Tories did in the last transition,” she said.

“Any further extraction must be consistent with our climate obligations, and we must approach licensing on a rigorously evidence-led case-by-case basis, with robust climate compatibility and energy security being key considerations.”

Earlier Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie also criticised Ross’s decision to stand in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, accusing the Tory leader of a “screeching U-turn”.

“Douglas Ross is treating his constituents with contempt by refusing to give up one of his three jobs and his shoddy treatment of his own colleague shows how morally bankrupt the Tories are,” she said.

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