Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross repeatedly dodged questions about Boris Johnson describing devolution in Scotland as a “disaster”, and did not say whether he thinks the Prime Minister should resign.
Mr Johnson reportedly said Scottish devolution has been a “disaster north of the border” in a conference call with northern Tory MPs, and called it “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.
Challenged on the comments, Mr Ross said it is “healthy” if politicians in the same party disagree on certain issues, but would not say whether he has talked to the Prime Minister about his controversial remarks.
Mr Ross instead cited Mr Johnson’s two terms as London mayor as evidence of his support for devolution, and then heaped praise on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic support for the whole of the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday that he and Mr Johnson always have “a robust exchange of opinions”, but would not say what they discussed when they spoke this week.
Asked if he believes the Prime Minister should resign, and whether someone like Mr Sunak or Michael Gove would offer more effective leadership as support for Scottish independence grows, Mr Ross said: “Rishi Sunak, along with the Prime Minister, is promoting the party up here.
“Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme has protected almost a million jobs here in Scotland.
“But the Prime Minister has a levelling up agenda that we will see benefiting Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland and this is a Government that is determined to ensure that when we get through this Covid pandemic, we can see significant investment in all parts of the country.”
Responding to the suggestion that further devolution could strengthen support for the union, Mr Ross said: “The answer is to have a government in Scotland that uses the powers it currently has to deliver for people in Scotland.
“We’re not getting that while our education system is suffering, where our health service is not being supported, where our local economy is not backed up by decisions from the Scottish Government.
“We just need to use the powers we’ve got in Scotland to improve the lives of people in Scotland, and we can do that. The SNP can’t because they’re obsessed with independence.”
Speaking ahead of the Scottish Conservative conference, which is being held remotely this weekend, Mr Ross said he hopes delegates will be celebrating the Tories’ retaining a council seat in the Clackmannanshire East by-election rather than discussing Mr Johnson’s devolution remarks.
Previewing the conference, Mr Ross said his party needs to be “far more positive about the union in Scotland and Scotland in the union”, in addition to scrutinising the SNP’s record during its 13-and-a-half years in power.
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