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by Louise Wilson
03 October 2023
Kate Forbes denies holding talks with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross

Credit: Euan Cherry/WENN

Kate Forbes denies holding talks with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross

Kate Forbes has denied holding secret talks with Douglas Ross following reports the Scottish Tory leader had met with SNP rebels. 

Ross said that “a number” of SNP MSPs had spoken to him about ways to better hold the Scottish Government to account – though refused to say who the MSPs were. 

He did, however, praise Forbes – who ran for the SNP leadership earlier this year – for some of her comments on government policies. 

Forbes, tweeting in response to newspaper reports, said: “Douglas ‘three jobs’ Ross hardly spends any time in the Scot Parliament or speaking to his own party colleagues, which is only one of the many, many reasons why I’ve never said more than a passing hello to him since he was elected. 

“Conference hyperbole compensating for a failed Tory Government.” 

Ross is currently in Manchester for the Conservative Party conference. 

He repeated his offer to work with rebel SNP MSPs to “end the Bute House Agreement” with the Scottish Greens. 

That agreement was made shortly after the 2021 election and saw two Green MSPs – co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater – enter government for the first time anywhere in the UK. 

But the government has had to make some U-turns on policy backed by the Greens following opposition, including on rolling out a deposit return recycling scheme and highly protected marine areas. 

Ross said: “I have spoken to members of the SNP who have raised concerns with me about the direction of their government and would look at ways that parliament can hold the SNP to account. 

“That clearly shows a frustration with some members of the current governing party in Scotland at the moment, that their own leadership is not listening to them.” 

Ash Regan, who also ran for the SNP leadership and suggested she would walk away from the agreement with the Greens, said the future of her party was “too important to be swayed by backroom talks with those who don’t share our vision for an independent nation”.

Former minister Fergus Ewing was last week handed a week-long suspension from the SNP after voting with the Scottish Conservatives on a motion of no confidence in Slater for her handling of the deposit return scheme. 

While the majority of the SNP group voted for that suspension, nine voted against and four abstained. 

Ewing has confirmed his intention to appeal. 

While the only SNP MSP to vote against the government on that matter, other MSPs have being openly critical of or voted against the government on HPMAs, gender recognition reforms, short-term let regulations and the presumption against new oil and gas developments. 

The SNP has been contacted for comment. 

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