A LARGE majority of voters in Scotland believe Douglas Ross is not “an appropriate” person to be the leader of a major political party or a candidate for first minister because of comments he has made about gypsy travellers.
A poll records some 65% of people think the controversial remark made by Ross should rule out the Scottish Conservative chief from holding either position, while some 35% say it should not (when “don’t knows” were excluded).
The same survey also finds that 67% of Scots think the MP should give up at at least one or more of his second jobs if he wins a seat in Holyrood at the May 6 election, while just 33% do not think he should (again, when “don’t knows” were excluded).
Ross has said he will not give up his seat in the UK Parliament until 2024, and that he will also carry on working part-time as an assistant football referee unless he becomes first minister.
The Moray MP was severely criticised after saying he would impose “tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers” if he was prime minister for the day.
He made the remark in an online interview in 2017 that was put on YouTube, and later tweeted that he wanted action against those who “flout local planning procedures with illegal encampments”.
Traveller and human rights groups said Ross had chosen to attack an already persecuted minority.
In the Meet the MPs interview with Core Politics, Ross was asked: “If you were prime minister for the day, without any repercussions, what would you do?”
He responded: “I would like to see tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers”, before the video immediately cuts to the next question.”
The Scottish Tory leader told viewers: “I’ve apologised for comments I’ve made in the interview you’ve cited. They were wrong and it was the wrong answer to the question.
“There are so many other priorities I could have answered with.”
His second job as a football referee has also led to him having to make a public apology. Ross apologised after he missed a service in his Moray constituency to mark 75 years since VJ Day to work as a linesman in a football match.
He admitted he was “wrong” to turn down the invitation to attend the service in Forres, in which veterans held a two-minute silence to mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War conflict in the Far East.
Instead of attending the event, Ross was a linesman in the Kilmarnock vs St Johnstone fixture in the Scottish Premiership. He said his match fee – approximately £445 – would be donated to the Help for Heroes charity.
Ross, who became Scottish Tory leader in August last year, had caused controversy in the past for continuing to officiate football matches as a politician. He said he would no longer officiate games when parliament is sitting after he was criticised for missing a Commons vote to run the line in a Champions League fixture in 2017. However, he has continued with what he describes as a “hobby” on weekends and in recess periods.
The poll, by Panelbase for the Scot Goes Pop website, also found that a majority of Scots feel the Conservatives must accept a second independence referendum in the event of a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.
Of the total respondents, 43% agreed that this should be the case, compared to 37% who did not.
Some 19% said they didn’t know.
It found that the projected outcome of next Thursday’s election would see the SNP as the largest party with 61 of the 129 seats at Holyrood, two fewer than at the 2016 election.
It suggests Alex Salmond’s Alba Party is on course to win eight seats and the Greens returning 11 MSPs, with a pro-independence majority of 16 seats.
The Scottish Conservatives would remain the second-largest party, despite being forecast to lose seven of the 31 seats they currently have, with Labour down four on 20 seats.
The Scottish LibDems would remain on five seats, according to the poll of 1075 over-16s, carried out between April 21 and 26.
All For Unity, the party created by former MP George Galloway, is polling at 2% on the regional list ballot but would win no seats.