The Scottish Tory leader has been accused of sharing a “nonsense” excuse for Boris Johnson’s absence in the Holyrood election campaign.
Douglas Ross cited coronavirus restrictions as a reason for the prime minister’s absence, despite the fact he visited Scotland in February to tour vaccination centres.
The SNP branded the accusations as “nonsense” and said Johnson was “too toxic” to be included in the Scottish Tories’ campaign push.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Ross sidelined suggestions Johnson would make an appearance before the May 6 election.
“I’m not sure if he’s going to come up to Scotland in this campaign. He had hoped to come up, and I thought he may come up but given the pandemic and the restrictions to campaigning, I’m not sure that’s likely,” Ross said.
When someone pointed out that Johnson had managed a trip to Scotland in February despite restrictions, Ross responded: “He came up specifically in February to thank our vaccinators here.”
He added: “He’s also leading the UK effort against a global pandemic and I think people understand in this more strange election campaign, in terms of the restrictions that we’ve all got to deal with, that it may not be that easy for the prime minister to come up.”
That assertion was laughed off by the BBC Radio 4 presenter, who pointed out the UK leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems had both visited Scotland ahead of next month’s election.
Ross commented: “I think people would understand that the leader of the opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats at UK level do not have the same pressures as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, who is dealing with the roll-out of this pandemic.”
Asked if he did not want Johnson to visit because it would be the “worst possible thing for your party because it would put people off possibly more than they are already”, Ross replied: “As I’ve just said, people can see the success of the decisions taken by the prime minister and his government to protect jobs with the furlough scheme, to invest in the vaccination roll-out and they see that as a real positive of being part of the United Kingdom. But the prime minister also understands I’m leading the party up here. It’s my manifesto it’s my team and I spoke with him last night and he’s very supportive of what we’re doing.”
SNP deputy leader Keith Brown told The National: “Surely Douglas Ross doesn’t even believe his own nonsense as he bends over backwards to defend his boss Boris Johnson.
“The reason the prime minister does not want to come to Scotland is because even the Tories know how much of a toxic brand he is in Scotland and are embarrassed to bring him here.
“Boris Johnson is running scared of accountability and democracy and does not want to come to Scotland because he knows it would only see his party’s ratings plunge even further.”