Douglas Ross slams UK Government handling of Brexit and coronavirus

Douglas Ross has slammed the UK Government’s handling of Brexit and coronavirus.

The Scottish Conservative leader criticised his own party’s approach and accused them of alienating the Remain voters of Scotland.

Delivering the keynote speech at Policy Exchange this morning, Mr Ross also demanded more was done to show the “shared values” of the UK.

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He said: “There is no getting away from the fact that Brexit and how it has been delivered has undermined the perception that there are common shared values that unite us.

Assistant referee and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, during a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final match between Celtic and Aberdeen at Hampden Park. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group
Assistant referee and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, during a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final match between Celtic and Aberdeen at Hampden Park. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group

“We failed to bring our country back together again after the vote,” he said. “Leave and Remain parts still feel divided more than four years on from the decision.

“We did not build a consensus around delivering Brexit. Instead there has been a ‘winner-takes-it-all’ approach.

“And that has alienated former Remain supporters who still feel aggrieved at the referendum result. In Scotland, the outlet for that anger and frustration is the SNP.”

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The Moray MP also claimed coronavirus had shown failings in Westminster and Holyrood, with the two governments not working together properly.

He said: “The Covid-19 crisis has put the structures for interaction between the UK Government, devolved administrations and indeed the English mayoralties to the ultimate test.

“And I think that even the most committed defender of the current system would admit that they have been found wanting.

“On one hand, the UK Government’s suspicions around the security of information has been legitimate.

“But on the other, devolved administrations, responsible for managing the virus in their nations, have been forced to look for detail on announcements from publicly available press releases.”

The MP, who resigned in protest at Dominic Cummings lockdown breach, has now demanded Westminster make clear that it cares.

He said: “We can continue to talk in facts about the economic importance of the UK or the democratic mandate which meant that we had to leave the EU.

“And about practical changes to the way that we govern our country to empower the Scottish Government and devolved administrations, and increase the visibility of the UK Government.

“These are important, but the key driving force behind the independence movement right now is the perception that our values are no longer shared.

“After the Brexit process and the handling of the pandemic, they no longer see our Union as underpinned by shared values, as special.

“So even more important than ‘Union policies’, we need to see factoring in upholding our open and inclusive Union into everything the government does, to re-emphasise the shared values that exist across our four nations.”

In a clear dig at his own party, Mr Ross suggested the problems came by not acting with all four nations in mind.

He said: “The challenge to this UK Government if it is serious about strengthening our Union is to bring our country together.

“Do not govern solely for the majority, but for everyone across our four nations, make restating our shared Union values of openness and inclusion a part of everything the government does.

“And if we do that then I believe that we will see support for independence fall.

“So, if we want to strengthen our Union then we need to restate and rebuild our shared values.

“We need to show why our Union is special.”

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