Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has challenged the other opposition parties at Holyrood to “show that they have the stomach stand up to this SNP Government” and back motions of no confidence in both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy.
Mr Ross insisted bringing forward the votes, against both Ms Sturgeon and the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, was 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 had “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 the Deputy First Minister 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 Conservative 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 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”.
Mr Ross, speaking at an online event staged by the think tank Onward, continued: “The testimony of multiple credible witnesses – and even Nicola Sturgeon’s own evidence – makes it clear that she misled Parliament.
“We can all plainly see the evidence against the Deputy First Minister, too. He ignored two votes of Parliament until his job was on the line. He suppressed information to help Nicola Sturgeon. He still withholds information. His statements have lurched from insincere to inaccurate.”
His comments came as he also called for reform of the Scottish Parliament, which he claimed had “become frozen in time, increasingly dated in its 1999 model of operating, despite its expanding remit”.
He also said voters in Scotland should be able to recall MSPs, as can happen at Westminster, citing the case of the former finance secretary, Derek Mackay, who remains as an MSP despite not having been seen in Holyrood since he quit the Scottish Government in February 2020 after details of messages he sent to a teenage boy emerged.
SNP Depute leader Keith Brown accused the Tory leader of “playing political games”, adding that Scots want the government to focus on recovering from coronavirus.
“All Douglas Ross achieved with such blatantly transparent tactics was to highlight his own inexperience and lack of political nous.
“The Tories have always hated devolution and fought tooth and nail to stop our nation’s parliament being established.
“Now, they’re doing everything they can to try to erode confidence in our democracy brick by brick from the inside – no one will trust the Tories to protect Scotland’s Parliament.
“The coming election is a stark choice – and both votes [for the] SNP are needed to put our country’s future in Scotland’s hands and not Boris Johnson’s.”