Douglas Ross has challenged Labour and the Liberal Democrats to “show that they have the stomach to stand up to this SNP Government” and back motions of no confidence in both Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy.
Mr Ross insisted bringing forward the votes, against both Ms Sturgeon and deputy first minister John Swinney, is the “the right thing to do”.
The motions have been brought forward in the wake of the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment allegations made against former first minister Alex Salmond.
Mr Ross also suggested a number of reforms be made to the way Holyrood operates, saying the probe into how the complaints against Mr Salmond were dealt with showed Holyrood’s ability to scrutinise and hold the government to account had been found “wanting”.
The Scottish Conservatives hope to hold a vote of no confidence in Mr Swinney on either Tuesday or Wednesday – with Mr Ross saying his party has “no choice but to continue with our plans for a confidence vote” after the deputy first minister’s delayed release of legal advice.
The Scottish Tory leader accused Mr Swinney of having “suppressed information to help Nicola Sturgeon”, adding that he “still withholds information”.
When the legal advice was finally made public, Mr Ross said it showed how the Scottish Government had “discounted” the opinion of lawyers as they continued to defend a legal challenge brought by Mr Salmond, which saw him win a payout of more than £500,000 at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
The Moray MP said: “The Sturgeon-Salmond scandal has riven the very heart of Scottish politics and undermined confidence in the ability of parliament to hold the government to account.”
Mr Ross recalled how the current SNP leader had “called for the resignation of Labour first minister Henry McLeish for subletting his office, Conservative leader David McLetchie for expensing party business and Labour leader Wendy Alexander for failing to declare party donations in her register of interests”.
Mr Ross insisted: “The other parties need to show that they have the stomach to stand up to this SNP Government like we do, to hold the First Minister to the same standards that she has held others to.”
A vote of no confidence needs to take place, he added, to “give Parliament the opportunity to have its say on the first minister’s conduct”.
And he issued a challenge to all other opposition MSPs, urging them to vote with the Tories in the motions of no confidence against both the first minister and her deputy.
Mr Ross said Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens should “unite with us and stand up for the Scottish Parliament and its fundamental principles”.
Douglas Ross ‘desperate’
The comments came as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar dismissed Mr Ross as “largely irrelevant”.
Mr Sarwar, speaking at press conference on Monday morning, said: “What Douglas Ross is trying to do is try to get some relevance for himself when he’s been largely irrelevant since becoming Scottish Conservative party leader.
“The reality is this – let’s not go into playground politics and try to go back to the old arguments pre-Covid. He is desperate to pull us back to the arguments pre-Covid, as is the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.
“They are desperate for us to go back to those binary choices where we can pull people back rather than recognise the world has changed, Scotland has changed and our politics has changed.
“I don’t support independence, I don’t support a referendum. What I do support is pulling our country back together again, reuniting our people.”