Tories insist Ross played no part in dropping candidate

The Scottish Conservatives have insisted party leader Douglas Ross played no part in the decision to stop a general election candidate from standing.

The party's management board also ruled Mr Ross should contest the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat on 4 July after David Duguid was effectively de-selected.

Mr Duguid, who had held the Banff and Buchan seat since 2017, had already been adopted by local party members and has disputed suggestions that he is "seriously ill".

Party chairman Craig Hoy told BBC Scotland News that Mr Ross - who sits on the eight member board - did not take part in two meetings regarding Mr Duguid.

Mr Hoy, who was campaigning in Glasgow, said: "We had two meetings of the board to discuss the situation with David’s ill-health, but Douglas was present at neither of those meetings."

When asked if Mr Ross had recused himself from the meetings, Mr Hoy said the Highlands and Islands MSP had not been there and it was a "decision taken unanimously" by the management board.

He added: "Douglas did not feed into these meetings. He did not feed into the decision. This was a very sensitive issue."

BBC Scotland News has been told Mr Ross has not attended any meetings of the board in 2024.

Mr Duguid is in hospital after becoming ill in April but wrote in a social media post that reports he could not stand in the election due to health problems were "simply incorrect".

The former Scotland Office minister added that no-one on the party management board had visited him in hospital.

In a further update on Saturday he revealed he had reached an "important milestone" and had been able to visit the hospital shops in his wheelchair to buy some newspapers.

Mr Duguid added: "I was a bit surprised to see so many of them describe me as 'seriously ill'.

"That was true when I was in intensive care in ARI a month ago.

"But certainly not now.

"I continue to be fully focussed on my rehabilitation and making great progress daily."

He signed off by adding he had "more milestones planned for next week".

Mr Ross previously stated that he would be standing down as an MP at the election to focus on his duties at Holyrood, where he has been an MSP since 2021.

Mr Hoy admitted it had been a "difficult few days" for the party, but said they did not have "sufficient assurance" that if Mr Duguid stood it would not work against "both his health and his recovery".

The decision means Mr Duguid is not eligible for a £15,000 redundancy payment from Parliament.

The move has been met with criticism from some within the party, with sources telling BBC Scotland News on Friday that "the optics are terrible" regarding the decision.

But Mr Hoy said that Mr Ross should not consider standing down, as he was "leading the charge" for the party into the upcoming election.

Other parties have used the deselection as ammunition to attack the Tories.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Mr Ross' selection was "typical of his character and the character of the Conservative party".

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described Mr Duguid's treatment as "desperately sad".

He added: "If he genuinely didn't want to stand down then this looks terrible for Douglas Ross."

On Friday Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes, an SNP MSP, criticised the move and said Mr Duguid had been "ejected from his seat" to allow Mr Ross to stand.