Goodbye and good riddance, Douglas Ross

Goodbye and good riddance Douglas Ross, you won’t be missed. Scotland’s leading political hypocrite and back stabber has announced that he is standing down as the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. He also announced, in a shameless instance of hedging his bets, that he will also stand down as an MSP, but only if he succeeds in winning the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East Westminster constituency that he half inched from a colleague lying ill in a hospital bed.

Ross had lost the confidence of his own party. Firstly the Scottish Tories had been angered by Ross U-turning on a previous commitment to step down as an MP at this general election in order to focus on Holyrood. They were then infuriated by the downright nasty and underhand way in which Ross had carpet bagged himself a potentially winnable seat at the expense of an ill colleague, sitting Tory MP David Duguid. Duguid strongly denied claims made by Ross that he was too unwell to campaign, reiterated his desire to remain the Conservative candidate, and damningly for Ross released a statement claiming that no one from the Scottish Conservative management board had visited him in hospital to inform him that they were considering deselecting him, and they had not sought medical advice about his supposed unfitness to stand.

There was such anger amongst the Scottish Tories that someone decided to give Ross a taste of his own back stabbing medicine and leaked highly damaging information about Ross’s Westminster expenses claims to the Sunday Mail. The Tory leaker alleged that on several occasions Ross abused his Westminster expenses to pay for travel expenses to and from his side gig as an assistant referee. Ross is alleged to have wrongly claimed expenses 28 times. That’s not an error, that’s a habit, and the Tories covered it up even as they were screaming for Michael Matheson’s head on a plate over a single instance of wrongly claimed expenses. Ross denies any wrong doing.

On Monday Ross bowed to the pressure from within his own party and announced that he will be standing down as leader of the Scottish Tories from the date of the general election. If he wins the seat he backstabbed David Duguid for, he’ll stand down as an MSP as well. It says a lot about the anger within the contingent of Scottish Conservative MSPs that they were prepared to scuttle their party’s Westminster General Election campaign just to get rid of Douglas Ross.

A party does not force its leader to resign in the middle of an election campaign unless there is something very seriously wrong indeed.

On the BBC UK lunchtime news there was no mention at all of Ross’s expenses scandal, even though the episode was assuredly instrumental in leading to his resignation. On BBC Scotland’s news where you are Ross’s expenses scandal was quickly glossed over in a single sentence. No representatives from the other parties were asked to comment on it. It’s reasonable to wonder what other dirty little secrets did Ross fear might be leaked by an angry Scottish Tory insider unless he fell on his sword and resigned as leader and gave an assurance that he would not simultaneously be an MP and an MSP. We will never know, certainly BBC Scotland has no interest in looking under that particular rock.

The contrast with how BBC Scotland handled the story of Michael Matheson’s expenses claim is stark and telling. Ross is alleged to have been a serial abuser of expenses and this has led to his own colleagues taking the drastic and desperate step of forcing him out in the middle of an election campaign. His own party is no longer prepared to cover up for him, yet BBC Scotland is curiously uninterested in digging deeper into the story.

This is markedly different from the Michael Matheson story, which BBC Scotland kept going for weeks by offering platforms to opposition representatives to attack Michael Matheson at every turn. The Corporation is signally not doing so with the scandal of Douglas Ross’s expenses even though the Scottish Tory leader’s offence is arguably far worse. Michael Matheson’s offence related to a one off incident. Douglas Ross is alleged to have made a habit of abusing his expenses on repeated and multiple occasions. Ross’s alleged offence is in addition compounded by hypocrisy. All the while that Douglas Ross was on BBC Scotland fulminating about Michael Matheson’s one off expenses claim, he was himself – allegedly – making repeated and habitual abuses of his Westminster expenses. Ross demands that Michael Matheson be held to a far higher standard than Ross wants to be held to himself, and BBC Scotland is complicit in allowing him to do so.

To be very clear, I am absolutely not saying that the BBC and the Scottish media should not have investigated and reported on the allegations made against Michael Matheson, of course they should have. But if the BBC really is the unbiased public service broadcaster that it claims to be, then it should be investigating and reporting on the allegations made against Douglas Ross with the same energy and vigour.

Ross remains the Tory candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. The question of Ross’s character is now central to the local campaign. This is a man who is alleged to have repeatedly and habitually abused his expenses in pursuit of his extra parliamentary career. He has stabbed a colleague in the back not once but twice, first Jackson Carlaw when Ross ousted him as Scottish Tory leader, then David Duguid in order to land himself a winnable Westminster seat. If someone is prepared to betray those who are supposed to be his friends for his own personal advancement, he would not hesitate to betray his constituents if he sees it as being in his own interests.

Ross’s bad character has been on display every week in Holyrood during First Minister’s Questions. He has encouraged Scottish Tory MSPs to behave in the same boorish and barracking manner which characterises the Conservative benches in Westminster. Here’s hoping that he will not be elected as an MP and then can languish in obscurity on the Tory back benches in Holyrood alongside that other Scottish Tory failure, Jackson Carlaw. He will not be missed. He comes across as a thoroughly unpleasant individual.


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