Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has indicated he would be willing to work with Labour in a “grand coalition” to try to keep the SNP out of power after May’s Holyrood election.
But as Mr Ross made the appeal, saying that “parties who support Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom remaining strong should look to work together”, the new Scottish Labour leader dismissed him as being “largely irrelevant”.
Anas Sarwar hit out at his Tory rival, saying: “What Douglas Ross is trying to do is try and get some relevance for himself when he has been largely irrelevant since becoming Scottish Conservative party leader.”
Mr Sarwar insisted: “The reality is this – let’s not lower to some kind of playground politics and try and go back to the old arguments pre-Covid.
“He is desperate to pull us back to the arguments pre-Covid, as is the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, they’re desperate for us to get back to those binary choices where we can pull people back, rather than recognising that the world has changed, Scotland has changed and our politics has to change at the same time as well.”
Mr Sarwar stressed: “I don’t support independence, I don’t support a referendum – what I do support is pulling our country back together again, reuniting our people so we can rebuild the country we love.”
His comments came at the same time as Mr Ross indicated he would be working with Labour and other pro-Union parties.
The Scottish Conservative leader, addressing an online event by the Onward think tank, was asked if his party would work with Labour in a “grand coalition in order to preserve the union and potentially prevent the SNP from gaining power”.
Mr Ross responded: “Very simple answer – yes.”
I think parties who support Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom remaining strong should look to work together, and I continue to make that offer to Scottish Labour.Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross
He said that was because the “last 14 years of failure we have seen from the SNP has undermined everything we are trying to do in Scotland” with the Conservative MP insisting: “We have seen our public services take a back seat to the SNP’s obsession with separating Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
“So, surely, if the parliamentary maths allow after the next election, for the parties who support Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom continuing and that strong union being maintained, surely we can work together, put aside some political differences to work in the national interest to focus Scotland on a recovery from coronavirus over the next five years, rather than more fights over the constitution.”
Mr Ross said: “I think parties who support Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom remaining strong should look to work together, and I continue to make that offer to Scottish Labour.”