THE SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVES have rallied to support Moray MP Douglas Ross as SNP politicians line up another concerted attack over his refereeing duties.
From the outset of his election in May, ousting SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, Mr Ross has not been far from controversy – and his political opponents have not been slow in launching personal attacks.
In the latest furore, the MP has been accused of neglecting his constituents by officiating at a Champions League match at Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium this evening – rather than attending a debate on welfare reforms in the House of Commons.
However, his party in Scotland immediately defended the MP last night, a Scottish Conservative spokesman saying: “There will be many Scottish Conservative representatives at this debate.
“Douglas has held more than 50 surgeries since becoming an MP and has met personally with David Gauke (work and pensions secretary) to discuss local cases which have arisen from these. Despite what the SNP thinks, the people of Moray are right behind Douglas and his refereeing – as they showed decisively when they elected him as their MP a few months ago.”
The response came after Stewart Stevenson MSP hit out at Mr Ross, saying: “Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross just never learns his lesson – and he is yet again leaving his constituents without a voice in parliament because he would rather rub shoulders with famous footballers.”
SNP Moray reaction
Last night SNP Councillors in Moray condemned Mr Ross for failing to “stand up for struggling families in the region”.
Pointing to House of Commons figures that indicate up to 650 people in Moray may be Universal Credit claimants facing major issues, they say that the rollout of Universal Credit in its current form has already been heavily criticised by Trade Unions and charities – as well as being roundly opposed by many politicians, including Moray’s SNP Council Group.
SNP Councillor for Elgin City North, Paula Coy, who has raised concerns about the Universal Credit rollout in Council meetings, said: “Hundreds of people in Moray will be affected by changes to Universal Credit, which have seen people elsewhere being left facing debt problems and unable to properly feed their families and heat their homes.
“As this system is rolled out in Moray in 2018 we are very likely to find folk in difficult circumstances being pushed to the edge by these changes.
“This debate in the House of Commons is a major opportunity for MPs to stand up for some of their hardest pressed constituents but our own MP will be absent from any vote while he pockets substantial additional income refereeing in Barcelona.
“He should be in Westminster raising the concerns of constituents and helping to ensure that they will not be hung out to dry by these totally unfair changes.
“If a claimant failed to turn up at the Job Centre they can be sanctioned and see their support cut. Perhaps Mr Ross should be sanctioned for failing to turn up and represent Moray in parliament.
“People in difficult circumstances need their elected representatives to stand up for them.”
Earlier this month Mr Ross, speaking to Wave Newsbeat, insideMORAY’s weekly news and discussion community radio show.
On that, he said of Universal Credit: “Have we been faultless? No, absolutely not – it is very clear and I know of the letter that the questioner was speaking about the roll-out of Universal Credit, and some of my Conservative colleagues have asked for that to be delayed.
“I met with David Gauke a couple of weeks ago and raised a number of these issues with him. There are concerns particularly around the technology used, the computer systems etc.
“Some of the biggest supporters of Universal Credit are those who work with people who need benefits day in and day out. They can actually see that there is great benefit in getting people off the system and more used to how you would get an income when you were back at work.”