Douglas Ross (Scottish politician)
Douglas Gordon Ross (born 27 January 1983) is a Scottish politician who has served as Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party since 2020. He has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Moray since 2017. In addition to his seat in Westminster, he serves as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Highlands and Islands having been elected at the 2021 election. He was previously MSP for the region from 2016 to 2017.
Born in Aberdeen, Ross was educated at Forres Academy. After graduating from the Scottish Agricultural College, he worked on a dairy farm. A member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in his youth, he switched to the Scottish Conservatives and began his political career as a Scottish Parliament researcher and then a councillor in Moray. He stood unsuccessfully for the Moray UK Parliament constituency in the 2010 and 2015 general elections and for the Scottish Parliament constituency in 2011 and 2016. In the latter election, he was elected as a regional list MSP as one of the additional members for the Highlands and Islands.
Ross was elected to the House of Commons at the 2017 general election, defeating SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, and was re-elected in 2019 with a reduced majority. He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland under Prime Minister Boris Johnson for six months. He resigned in May 2020, in protest at Dominic Cummings continuing to serve as Johnson's adviser after breaking lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the resignation of Jackson Carlaw in July 2020, Ross announced his candidature in the August 2020 Scottish Conservative Party leadership election. Five days later, he was elected leader unopposed. He ran on a joint ticket with former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Since he served in the House of Commons and was not an MSP, Davidson led the party in the Scottish Parliament until the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
Early life and career
Douglas Gordon Ross was born in Aberdeen on 27 January 1983 to Sandy and Lesley Ross. In childhood he first attended Alves Primary School and the state secondary Forres Academy before going on to study Agriculture at the Scottish Agricultural College. After graduating, he worked on a dairy farm near Forres, Moray, where his father had been working as a cattleman. He was a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in his youth but later became a Conservative voter.
Ross began his political career when he took up a post as a parliamentary researcher at the Scottish Parliament. He was first elected to The Moray Council in 2007, representing the Fochabers-Lhanbryde ward, and became part of the Independent/Conservative administration. He resigned from the council administration in December 2009 but continued as a councillor. In 2012, he was re-elected to The Moray Council and again became part of the ruling administration group but was "ousted" from this in 2014, following a debate about school closures.
Ross stood as the Conservative candidate for Moray at the 2010 and 2015 general elections, coming second to Angus Robertson but increased his share of the vote by 5.0% in 2015. He also stood as the Conservative candidate for the Moray Scottish Parliament constituency at the 2011 Scottish Parliament election but finished second to Richard Lochhead. At the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, Ross increased his vote by 18.0% but again finished behind Lochhead. However, he was elected to the Scottish Parliament after being placed first on the Highlands and Islands regional list. He supported the UK remaining within the European Union in the 2016 membership referendum.
Ross stood again for the seat of Moray at the 2017 general election, challenging SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson. He was successful in overturning Robertson's 9,065 majority with 22,637 votes, 47.6% of the votes cast, gaining a 16.5% swing to the Conservatives. Having gained a seat at Westminster, Ross resigned from his seat in the Scottish Parliament.
In 2017, Ross said during an interview that if he was Prime Minister for a day "without any repercussions", he would "like to see tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers". His remark was criticised, including by Naomi McAuliffe of Amnesty International. Ross apologised for his use of language. The Scottish Football Association launched a disciplinary investigation into his remarks, which did not lead to any formal disciplinary action, but warned him to pay attention to his use of language.
SNP and Labour spokespeople criticised Ross for missing a debate on Universal Credit in October 2017, due to his commitments as a football referee. Shortly afterwards, Ross decided he would no longer accept referee appointments while the UK Parliament is sitting.
Despite backing remaining in the EU prior to the referendum, Ross stated Parliament should complete Brexit to "deliver the will of the British people". He voted against Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement at the first round of voting and was absent for the second following his wife going into labour. He supported Mark Harper then subsequently Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election.
Ross was re-elected at the 2019 general election with a reduced majority. He was then appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing Colin Clark who had lost his seat in the election. He resigned from this role on 26 May 2020, in protest against Dominic Cummings continuing to serve as Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister after having travelled over 260 miles (420 kilometres) from London to Durham during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
Leadership of the Scottish Conservatives
Ross announced his candidature in the August 2020 Scottish Conservative Party leadership election after Jackson Carlaw's resignation on 30 July 2020. On 5 August, he won the contest unopposed and became leader. On 11 August, he conducted a reshuffle where he made Ruth Davidson the Leader of the Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament, dismissed Annie Wells and Liam Kerr from their deputy leadership positions and did not give Carlaw a position. As a result of the Alex Salmond parliamentary inquiry in early 2021, Ross called on opposition parties to pass a motion of no confidence against the Scottish Government.
Upon becoming leader, Ross announced plans to run for a seat in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election and succeed Davidson as his party's leader in Holyrood. He was subsequently elected on the Highlands and Islands regional list. The Scottish Conservatives won 31 seats in total, matching their 2016 result. Following his re-election to the Scottish Parliament, Ross announced his intention to remain the MP for Moray while serving as an MSP.
A qualified football official, Ross is a top-level assistant referee in his spare time. He was one of the officials for the 2015 Scottish Cup Final, assisting Willie Collum, and the 2018 Scottish Cup Final, assisting Kevin Clancy. He has run the line in several editions of Scotland's biggest club fixture, the Old Firm derby, and has been involved in continental UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League ties and international FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship qualifiers. He continued his refereeing career after being elected to the Scottish Parliament, and the UK Parliament.
In the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests, Ross declared earnings of more than £2,700 in August and September 2017 for his work as an assistant referee. In October of that year, Ross told the football authorities that he would no longer accept refereeing appointments during the week while the UK Parliament is sitting. By December 2017 his declared income from 20 domestic and international games since becoming an MP was more than £11,000.
In December 2018, BBC Sport reported that Ross had reduced the number of refereeing appointments due to his work commitments as an MP. At this time, he also argued that the Scottish Football Association should not appoint fully professional referees.
In August 2020, Ross apologised for not attending a VJ Day event as a result of previously agreeing to officiate at a Scottish Premiership game between Kilmarnock and St Johnstone. Ross said he would donate his match fee to the charity Help for Heroes. In October 2020, he was a linesman at Wembley for England's 3–0 friendly win against Wales.
In November 2020, FIFA were asked to investigate a complaint by a member of the Scottish Football Supporters Association that a Conservative Party leaflet distributed to homes in Scotland included a photograph of Ross as a match official. The Daily Record reported that Ross could face a ban from football if he is found to have broken neutrality rules.[needs update]
- Ross has served as Leader of the Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament since 6 May 2021, having been preceded by Ruth Davidson.
- Normally, regional MSPs do not have individual predecessors and successors. However, Ross retired his seat during a sitting parliament so was succeeded by Halcro Johnston.
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- Shedden, Sam (23 August 2017). "New Tory MP Douglas Ross slammed for anti-Traveller comment". The Scotsman. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
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- Ross, Douglas [@Douglas4Moray] (26 May 2020). "I haven't commented publicly on the situation with Dominic Cummings as I have waited to hear the full details. I welcome the statement to clarify matters, but there remains aspects of the explanation which I have trouble with. As a result I have resigned as a government Minister" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Minister quits over Cummings' lockdown actions". BBC News. 26 May 2020.
- "Douglas Ross confirmed as Scottish Conservative leader". BBC News. BBC. 5 August 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
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- Johnson, Simon (8 March 2021). "Douglas Ross challenges other opposition leaders to back no confidence votes in Sturgeon and Swinney". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 9 March 2021.(subscription required)
- "Scottish Conservatives to press on with vote of no confidence in John Swinney this week". HeraldScotland. 7 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
- Gordon, Tom (12 May 2021). "Douglas Ross makes Commons ally Stephen Kerr Scots Tory whip". The Herald. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
- Webster, Laura (8 May 2021). "Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross wins seat on Highlands and Islands list". The National. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
- "Scottish Cup final: Willie Collum to referee Inverness CT v Falkirk". BBC Sport. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
- D. Ross, Soccerway
- "Whistle blown on MSP Douglas Ross's refereeing clash". BBC News. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- Commons, House of. "House of Commons – The Register of Members' Financial Interests (9 October 2017: Ross, Douglas)". publications.parliament.uk.
- Gordon, Tom (14 December 2017). "Scottish Tory MP Douglas Ross's outside football earnings top £11,000". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
- "Referee Douglas Ross not convinced by full-time switch". BBC Sport. 7 December 2018. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- "Tory leader sorry for missing VJ Day event for match". BBC News. 16 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
- "England Vs Wales friendly". The Guardian. 8 October 2020.
- Mcilkenny, Stephen (1 November 2020). "FIFA asked to investigate use of Douglas Ross linesman photo in Scottish Conservative party leaflet". The Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
- Beresford, Alan (13 March 2019). "Oh baby! Frantic dash for MP father". The Northern Scot. Retrieved 29 October 2019.