Scottish Tories will broaden their offering beyond just fighting independence, says Douglas Ross

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Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross outside the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Sunday May 9, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SCOTLAND Tories. Photo credit should read:  - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross outside the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Sunday May 9, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SCOTLAND Tories. Photo credit should read: - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Scottish Tories are no longer “just the party of Ruth Davidson” and will now broaden their offer to voters beyond opposition to independence, Douglas Ross has pledged.

The party leader defied predictions last week to maintain the number of Conservative MSPs at Holyrood, winning 31 seats and a record number of votes by campaigning relentlessly against a second referendum.

However, Mr Ross, who took over from Jackson Carlaw last August, said he would now look to build a credible government-in-waiting, and admitted acting as a strong opposition to the SNP at Holyrood was “not enough”.

He outlined his determination to win Bute House from the nationalists in 2026 and become Scotland’s first ever Tory First Minister.

“Now is the time to come together in the national interest and deliver Scotland’s recovery from Covid,” Mr Ross said, in a post-election statement.

“But longer term, to succeed in rebuilding Scotland from the last 14 years, we can’t just stop the SNP. We need to challenge them for the top job.

"We must be a stronger opposition than ever before – and we will be – but that is not enough.

“We have to demand more. We must be more than the party of 'no to Indyref2'. I recognise that, and I am determined that we will become an even broader movement.”

He said the Tory campaign message had been the correct one but said the Scottish public had now faced two consecutive elections in which opposition parties did not have a realistic chance of defeating the SNP.

He said voters deserved “the right to choose an alternative” and said the “long hard road” to delivering that was already underway.

The Tories increased their votes in seats across rural Scotland, although not by enough to win constituencies from the SNP, while Ayr fell to the nationalists.

However, Mr Ross said toppling the SNP in seats across Perthshire and the North East was possible and said his party “have to be able to win in every part of Scotland” in future elections.

"In 2016, Ruth Davidson put us on the map," he added. "She put our party on her shoulders this last decade and carried us forward. But we are no longer just the party of Ruth Davidson.

“Only our party can get the better of the SNP. It was our votes that stopped an SNP majority and Indyref2 – nobody else’s.

“It will be a long and probably bumpy road. But we have handled setbacks these past few years and I have come through setbacks in this campaign.

“Overnight, we will not topple the SNP. But we have overcome what looked like a certain SNP majority.

“In five years, we can achieve so much more. The hard work starts now, and we’re ready for it."

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP alongside Scottish Conservative MP Douglas Ross in Edinburgh, after he confirmed he will stand for leadership of the Scottish Conservatives following the sudden resignation of Jackson Carlaw after less than six months in the post. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday July 31, 2020. Former Scottish Conservative leader and Edinburgh Central MSP Ruth Davidson has agreed to lead First Minister's Questions until a new leader for the party has been elected. See PA story POLITICS ScotTories. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP alongside Scottish Conservative MP Douglas Ross in Edinburgh, after he confirmed he will stand for leadership of the Scottish Conservatives following the sudden resignation of Jackson Carlaw after less than six months in the post. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday July 31, 2020. Former Scottish Conservative leader and Edinburgh Central MSP Ruth Davidson has agreed to lead First Minister's Questions until a new leader for the party has been elected. See PA story POLITICS ScotTories. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Mr Ross’s personal approval ratings slumped during the campaign while those of Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s leader, increased drastically as he courted pro-independence voters.

However, Mr Sarwar, along with Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie, lost seats to the pro-independence Greens while Mr Ross repeated Ms Davidson’s feat in 2016, when she delivered 31 seats, up from 15 in the previous parliament.

Ms Davidson, who has now departed Holyrood and will take up a seat in the House of Lords, paid tribute to Mr Ross’s campaign and said his achievement had been far more impressive than her record result five years earlier when she usurped Scottish Labour.

“As a new leader in his first campaign, he could easily have been fixated about being loved, rather than delivering a result,” she said.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 3: Jackson Carlaw MSP Scottish Conservative Leader attends First Ministers Questions at Holyrood on June 3, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  - Fraser Bremne/Getty Images
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 3: Jackson Carlaw MSP Scottish Conservative Leader attends First Ministers Questions at Holyrood on June 3, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. - Fraser Bremne/Getty Images

“Instead, he did things properly. Listened and learned from the research and focus groups and made sure he did what would be effective, not what would garner him personal accolades.

"He ran the most focussed and disciplined campaign I’ve ever seen. Douglas Ross delivered. And people who want the UK to stay together owe him and his close team a massive round of thanks."

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