Scottish Tory leader branded ‘SNP-lite’ for voting against Government

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Ross – REUTERS

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has been branded “SNP-lite” and could be sidelined in the upcoming Scottish elections amid fury that he rebelled against the Government in a Commons vote.

The extraordinary row broke out after Mr Ross was the sole Tory MP to vote for an SNP motion this week calling on the government to reverse the scrapping of tax free shopping for visitors.

Cabinet allies of Boris Johnson contacted The Telegraph to question whether Douglas Ross “is the right man to lead the Scottish Tories” and threatened to try to defeat Nicola Sturgeon “despite him”.

The news came after Luke Graham, the PM’s Union adviser, was quit suddenly in 10 Downing Street and replaced by Brexit referendum veteran and former Dominic Cummings ally Oliver Lewis.

The behaviour of Mr Ross is said to have alarmed senior figures at 10 Downing St just months before the Scottish elections with one senior figure saying he is trying to be “SNP-lite”.

The Prime Minister is said by senior allies to be furious. One senior ally told The Telegraph: “People are starting to question whether he is the right person to lead the Scottish Conservatives.”

Mr Ross is unlikely to be sacked by Boris Johnson just months before the Scottish election after voting with the SNP on a key vote last week.

The source said: “We can’t dump him but we have to think how we can manage the campaign despite him – which is not the right place to be. People are saying ‘what the f*** is he doing’.”

Mr Ross is now expected to be called in for a “fairly direct conversation” with the Government chief whip Mark Spencer about his behaviour this week.

The senior source said: “Douglas has gone charging over the hill only to realise he is the only man who has gone. “You have got to make the political arguments – that is how you win. What you can’t do is be SNP-lite because the electorate will say ‘I may as well vote for the proper thing’.”

Mr Ross declined to comment, but friends insisted that he voted with the SNP because of the large number of Scotch whisky distilleries in his Moray constituency.

They said he voted with the SNP to avoid handing ammunition to the SNP by voting to remove the tax break on “an important local issue” to him.

The friend said that any sidelining of Mr Ross would “not go down well” north of the Border.

The friend said he informed his Scottish Conservative colleagues of his plans as well the whips office: “He told the whips about it. He made it clear how he was voting.”

Mr Ross is understood to get on well with Mr Lewis. One friend said the criticism was evidence of “not understanding Scotland” among some key figures around Mr Johnson.

A Number 10 spokesman declined to comment on the concerns and insisted that Mr Ross and Mr Johnson had an excellent working relationship.

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