Douglas Ross will not ‘shy away’ from fighting independence referendum
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said he will not “shy away” from fighting SNP plans for an independence referendum.
Mr Ross will return to Holyrood on the Highlands and Islands regional list as his party upped its number of MSPs in the area.
He was one of the four Tory MSPs to be elected, the rest of whom served during the last parliamentary term.
Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron and Jamie Halcro Johnston will all return to Holyrood with their leader, as the party gained one more MSP in the region.
Mr Ross said: “I’ll stop talking about independence when the SNP stop talking about independence.
“The fact that they put it front and centre of their election manifesto meant that I was going to respond to that.
“I’m not going to shy away from the SNP, I’m not going to hide from the crucial debate here in Scotland
“But what I am going to put forward is a positive vision for our country, what we really can deliver as a whole parliament, as a whole country to secure the recovery that people here in Scotland desperately need after the 12 months we have been through together.”
The new MSP refused to be drawn on whether he would support legal action against a second independence referendum after Nicola Sturgeon pledged to “proceed with the legislation that is necessary”.
If Boris Johnson tried to stop it, she added, he would need to go to the Supreme Court.
Mr Ross said he would be supporting “protecting people’s jobs, investing in the NHS, raising our education standards” among other things which can currently be pursued in the Scottish Parliament.
He also reiterated he would continue to serve as an MP alongside his new position in Holyrood.
The SNP and Scottish Greens maintained their number of MSPs in the Highlands and Islands, although the seats will be filled by different people.
After children’s minister Maree Todd won the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat, Emma Roddick will take the seat, while Ariane Burgess will take the place of the retiring Green MSP John Finnie.
Labour lost one seat in the area, with Rhoda Grant returning to Holyrood.
Speaking after his election, Mr Ross said: “This region is so important to me – I have lived within the Highlands and Islands in Moray my entire life.
“I have had the great pleasure and privilege to represent this area before and I’m delighted to be returned again to represent this diverse and wonderful part of Scotland.”
I believe now people are looking for their MSPs, both in this region and across Scotland to work together
He added: “We have had six weeks of extremely competitive and at times divisive debate, but I believe now people are looking for their MSPs, both in this region and across Scotland, to work together – to show the same unity that people across this country have shown in coming through the worst of this pandemic so far and looking towards our recovery as a country.”
The gain comes after the Tories were able to hold onto a key marginal seat in Aberdeenshire West, effectively ending the hopes of a majority for the SNP.
Alexander Burnett increased his majority from 900 to 3,390 against former SNP head of communication Fergus Mutch.
Tactical voting was said to have helped contribute to an increase in the Tory’s share of the vote in this election.
Speaking to the PA news agency earlier in the day, Mr Ross said he believed the Alba Party’s introduction into Scottish politics had been more beneficial to the Greens, as it helped to illustrate to voters how the voting system operates.
Speaking at the count in Inverness, he said: “It certainly showed people that there was a real risk there, but it might actually be converse it wasn’t Alba that benefit from that but the Greens.
“Because Alba were also explaining that because of the system and the fact that it’s not a perfect system then you can vote for a party in the constituency and a different party on the list.
“Actually today I think at close of play the Greens have benefitted from the messaging that Alba were putting out at the start of this campaign.
On Alex Salmond, Mr Ross added: “He should never have come back – he was a totally unsuitable person to seek elected office again.
“I thought it was wrong for him to seek election again and the people of the northeast have made it very clear they don’t want him.”