The Daily Telegraph
Scots Tory leader under fire for VJ Day snub
Douglas Ross faces calls to quit as football referee after missing service to officiate in Scottish Premiership
THE new leader of the Scottish Conservatives is under pressure to quit as a football referee after he missed a Second World War commemoration to work as a linesman.
Douglas Ross, who is an elite-level official who has previously refereed Champions League and international fixtures, issued an apology yesterday for turning down an invitation to attend a VJ Day service in his Moray constituency on Saturday to run the line in the Kilmarnock vs St Johnstone fixture in the Scottish Premiership.
Opponents called the decision “disappointing and disrespectful” and said he must “put his political role first”.
Neil Findlay, the Labour MSP, said: “Douglas Ross needs to make up his mind whether he represents his con- stituents full-time or if his financial and personal interests are more important.”
A spokesman for Mr Ross initially said he had “reflected on VJ Day privately” and observed the two-minute silence. However, after he came under attack for the decision to miss the commemoration, Mr Ross issued an apology and said his match fee – about £445 – would be donated to the Help for Heroes charity.
While he has insisted he plans to continue officiating football matches, he has committed to avoiding similar clashes in future. “I was selected to officiate a game before I was invited to the VJ Day event, and I offered apologies in advance that I could not attend,” Mr Ross said.
“I had not anticipated there being an official VJ Day event given the current restrictions due to Covid, but when it became clear there was a conflict, I should have asked to be taken off my game. I got this wrong and I apologise.”
He added: “I am a proud and passionate supporter of the Armed Forces and our veterans. I represent a constituency with a significant military presence and have worked with local and national charities supporting veterans throughout my time as an elected representative. I made an error of judgment here and apologise to any veteran who was offended.”
Mr Ross, who became Scottish Tory leader earlier this month, has caused controversy in the past for continuing to officiate at football matches.
He said he would no longer officiate games when Parliament is sitting, after he was criticised for missing a Commons vote to run the line in a Champions League fixture in 2017. However, he has continued with what he describes as a hobby on weekends and in recess periods.
He has insisted his second job helps him to connect with voters, keeps him fit and allows him to escape the political bubble.
However, Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “Douglas Ross should do what he promised which is put his political role first.”
Richard Lochhead, the SNP’S universities minister who represents Moray at Holyrood, said: “Mr Ross and myself were invited to join civic leaders and veterans at Moray’s scaled back VJ Day ceremonies to represent our constituents and pay our respects. The reason why he failed to turn up is deeply disappointing and disrespectful.
“To treat such an important and unique ceremony as a diary inconvenience because he wanted to run the line at a football match speaks volumes about the man who is an MP and a party leader who aspires to be first minister.”