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Douglas Ross condemned for comments on Travellers while still a councillor

Douglas Ross Travellers
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross claims he was “speaking on behalf of a constituent” when he said “we have to bend over backwards” for Travellers during his time as a councillor.

The comments, which were reported in the Press and Journal at the time, were unearthed by a report into racism directed towards members of the Travelling community.

Mr Ross has been criticised previously on his comments regarding the travelling community.

I’m disappointed and frustrated that we seem to have to continue to bend over backwards for this ethnic minority and that action doesn’t seem to be replicated by them.”

Douglas Ross, while a councillor on Moray Council in 2013

When asked in 2017 what he would do if made “Prime Minister for a Day”, the Moray MP said his number one priority would be “tougher enforcement on Gypsy Travellers”.

Speaking to DC Thomson’s Election Hub Live last week, Mr Ross again apologised for his comments, adding “sometimes in quick-fire interviews you say things you normally would not have”.

The Press and Journal reported in June 2013 Mr Ross’ comments regarding the decision.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated that we seem to have to continue to bend over backwards for this ethnic minority and that action doesn’t seem to be replicated by them,” he said.

“It does raise concerns that we are positively discriminating in favour of them at the disadvantage of the settled community.”

Tories ‘retreat to dark and dismal place’

Scottish Lib Dem convener and candidate for Moray, Sheila Ritchie, responded to the comments, which were unearthed by Open Democracy on Tuesday.

She said: “From the moment he announced that his first priority as Prime Minister would be “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers” it’s been clear that Douglas Ross is completely incapable of representing the overwhelming majority of Scots.

“I never thought I would hear the words Scotland and apartheid together. His proposals are an affront to people across the Highlands and Islands and Scotland as a whole.

“As the Scottish Conservatives retreat to a dark and dismal place, Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for human rights at home and abroad.”

Douglas Ross was ousted as planning committee convener for Moray Council and told The Sunday Post at the time he felt he was being “gagged”.

Constituent concern

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives told this paper: “This historic comment was about a situation where a constituent suffered heavily financially, which Douglas felt was wrong, and he argued on his constituents’ behalf.”

The party had previously told Open Democracy Mr Ross’s comments were “false” and “do not accurately represent Douglas Ross’s work as a councillor, his time on the local planning committee, or his views”.

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