Scottish Tory leader further muddies the waters after tactical voting comments


After receiving a slap down from Tory HQ, Douglas Ross has stood by his controversial statements about tactical voting by essentially saying his comments were taken out of context.

Earlier, he urged people to do “what’s best for the country” and support the candidate most likely to beat the SNP in their constituency.

That could, therefore, include Labour candidates – potentially helping opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer to win a majority at the next UK election at the expense of Mr Ross’s Conservatives.

Speaking later to Sky News, however, Mr Ross indicated he was referring to Labour supporters backing Tory candidates in areas where Tories are the main rivals to the SNP.

The headline: ‘Tory leader urges Labour voters to support Tory candidates’ is hardly a surprising sentiment from a Scottish Tory leader.

But the Moray MP muddied the waters by also saying he thought voters wanted their leaders to be “urging people to get behind their party in the seats where they are the strongest party”.

This seemed like a suggestion he was relaxed about Tory voters supporting other parties in areas where his party wasn’t in contention.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during First Minster's Questions (FMQ's) in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh
Douglas Ross has been slapped down by Tory HQ

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“I will always urge Scottish Conservative voters to vote Scottish Conservative,” came the stock reply from Mr Ross.

What’s for sure is this isn’t nearly as explicit a response as the Tories have put out from their central office.

Westminster Conservatives know that Sir Keir Starmer’s route to Downing Street runs straight through Scotland.

Every Labour gain north of the border heightens the chance of Rishi Sunak being ejected from power.

That’s why the comments were met with such an abrupt reply from Tory central office this weekend.

So what is the Scottish Tory leader up to?

Given Labour voters helped Mr Ross win his Moray constituency, some will conclude he’s simply trying to look after his own flock.

Perhaps another case of when the priorities of UK Tories are at a mismatch with those of the party in Scotland.

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