19 Jun 2024

‘Scottish Conservatives will prioritise local issues rather than obsessing about independence’, says Douglas Ross

We spoke to the outgoing leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross, and began by asking him his reaction to the latest polls and the scale of rejection of Conservative politics.

Douglas Ross: There’s a variety of polls today that have different individual seat outcomes, but the votes that matter will start to arrive with postal votes dropping on people’s doors in the next few days. Some have already arrived, and on 4 July, people have an opportunity to vote for the Conservatives at the UK level who have turned around the economy but accept there’s more to do. But particularly here in Scotland, there are key seats where it’s a straight choice between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP. And we saw with the SNP manifesto today, the first page is dedicated to separating Scotland from the rest of the UK, which is not a priority for people here. So Scottish Conservatives will prioritise local issues rather than obsessing about independence, which the SNP are doing.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: The seat you’re going for obviously is very involved with North Sea Oil. You must be pleased, therefore, that the SNP seems to have shifted their position on oil and gas and are now prepared to countenance supporting new licences if they meet their climate tests. That would support the people that you’re seeking to represent.

Douglas Ross: The SNP are all over the place on this issue. Only the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for the oil and gas sector, our energy security that is needed now and in the future, but supporting that sector for the just transition to net zero and the tens of thousands of skilled jobs here in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East and across the northeast of Scotland. The SNP are trying to say one thing in the central belt of Scotland and something else in the northeast, but they are against granting new licences. They were against Rosebank and Cambo. They are not on the side of the oil and gas sector and the skilled workers here, only the Scottish Conservatives are.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Can you just explain how any new oil and gas licences are good for meeting net zero?

Douglas Ross: Yes, I can, because there is currently a demand for oil and gas here in Scotland and across the UK, and while that demand is there, I think we should get the oil and gas from the North Sea, as close to home as possible, rather than importing it from foreign governments at a higher cost with a greater carbon footprint. So I do think we need to use our natural resources here in Scotland and across the UK, rather than imports, which have a higher carbon footprint. And the skilled jobs that we have in the North Sea are going to be required to allow us to do that just transition to net zero. If we turn off the taps now, like Labour and the SNP are suggesting, those jobs will be lost. We will lose those skills to other countries and they won’t be here in Scotland to help us get to net zero.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But as you know, the oil and gas market is an international one. You can’t change the law to suddenly make Britain buy British. So your arguments about the proximity of those supplies is irrelevant.

Douglas Ross: No, it’s not, because while we still have a demand for oil and gas here in Scotland and across the UK, if we can source it from as close to home as possible, that means we don’t have to import it at a higher cost with a greater carbon footprint. And at the same time, we are protecting 800,000 highly skilled jobs here in the northeast of Scotland, which would be under threat with both the Labour Party and the SNP.