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Sturgeon questions Ross’s ability to ‘stand up’ to PM and Government

She criticised his support for plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims are assessed.

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The First Minister was speaking as she launched her party’s local election campaign bus on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister was speaking as she launched her party’s local election campaign bus on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister was speaking as she launched her party’s local election campaign bus on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has questioned Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross’s willingness to stand up to the Prime Minister after his support for sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a deal with the African country on Thursday, claiming the asylum system is “collapsing under a combination of real humanitarian crises and evil people smugglers”.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Friday, Mr Ross said the policy would help to deter people traffickers.

If he can't even find it within himself to stand up and speak out against a policy as disgusting as this then I'm not sure what he will be able to stand up to Boris Johnson or the UK Government onNicola Sturgeon

But Nicola Sturgeon hit out at the Tory leader’s support, telling journalists: “Douglas Ross earlier this year for what seems like five minutes tried to pretend that he had an independence of thought from Boris Johnson and the UK Government, but any illusions about that I think had been completely shattered by him.

“If he can’t even find it within himself to stand up and speak out against a policy as disgusting as this, then I’m not sure what he will be able to stand up to Boris Johnson or the UK Government on.”

The First Minister also reiterated her outrage at the policy, which she described as “disgusting and despicable”, adding: “I don’t think it will be effective.

“More than all of that I think it is one of the most unethical, shameful policies I’ve seen from a UK Government and that’s a big big statement for me to make.

“It’s bad on its own terms, but the fact that it is being set out at a time when, clearly, the motivation is to distract from partygate I think deepens that sense of disgust people will have and that it’s been deliberately used to try to stoke some kind of culture war.”

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The Scottish Tory leader said the proposal was designed to deter human traffickers (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Tory leader said the proposal was designed to deter human traffickers (Jane Barlow/PA)

PA

The Scottish Tory leader said the proposal was designed to deter human traffickers (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking at a campaign event in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, on Friday, Mr Ross said: “We’ve seen lives being lost with this illegal trafficking so the proposal is to try and do something to stop the 28,000 people who made that crossing in the last year.

“Over 90% of those are single men, they’re coming over here as economic migrants and it’s to try and break that link to prevent and deter them from doing that because remember they’re coming from France.

“They’ve already reached a safe country but they’re trying to come to the United Kingdom and they’re encouraged to do so by illegal human traffickers who are making thousands upon thousands of pounds out of their illegal activity.

“Anything that can be done to try and deter that and minimise the number of people making that dangerous crossing is something we have to look at.”

But he acknowledged that concerns over Rwanda’s human rights record would need to be addressed, adding: “We also have to listen to and respond to the legitimate concerns that have been raised, particularly about the human rights in Rwanda, where these people are going to to have their asylum verified and considered.”

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