Nicola Sturgeon has leapt to the defence of Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross after he was branded a “lightweight” by a UK Government minister.
The First Minister said that despite her “big political differences” with the leader of the opposition, she was “not as derogatory about him as his Tory colleagues are being.”
“You know, ‘not a big figure’, ‘lightweight’, these might be insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, but actually they say something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland,” she told MSPs.
Sturgeon added: “If they can’t even show basic respect for their own colleagues, what chance do the rest of us have? The fact is Westminster thinks Scotland doesn’t need to be listened to, can be ignored and now we’ve been told we have to thole a prime minister that his own colleagues think is not fit for office.
“Independence is fundamentally about empowerment and aspiration, but you know what an added benefit of being independent is that we’ll no longer have to put up with being treated like something on the sole of Westminster’s shoe and I suspect today, even Douglas Ross finds that a really attractive proposition.”
Meanwhile, there was support for Ross from his own backbenchers.
Just about all have now publicly declared their backing for the leader after he called for Boris Johnson to resign over the partygate scandal.
However, he has been criticised by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons. He described Ross as “lightweight” and “not a big figure” during interviews on Wednesday.
In a debate in the Commons on Thursday, he said that as an office holder in the party Ross “ought to support the leader of the party.”
“That is the honourable and proper thing to do.”
Tory MSP Jamie Greene said Rees-Mogg should “just go and have a lie down.”
During First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Tory leader pushed Sturgeon on support for businesses impacted by coronavirus.
He said that the SNP leader had failed to meet a promise to get money into the hands of firms before Christmas.
Ross replied: “If the First Minister had listened to me in December, listened to the voices from the Scottish Conservatives, businesses would not be telling her in January that they’re not getting the funding that they need.
“She says I have to listen to her answers, First Minister, please listen to the businesses that are telling you here in Scotland you made a promise to them that you failed to deliver and they are waiting for this vital funding.
“This is to protect their businesses. This is to protect jobs and shaking your head and dismissing what they are saying undermines everything they are trying to do to keep their business alive through the toughest possible time.”
He also said the First Minister treated Scottish jobs and businesses as “an afterthought”.
Sturgeon said that was “arrant nonsense.”
“We managed to find within our own resources and additional money so that we can get extra support to Scottish businesses because we do accept how important it is in the face of this ongoing challenge to provide as much support as we possibly can for businesses.
“So we are in a process right now, Scottish Government working with local government to get that money out of the door into the bank accounts of businesses.
“I come back to a central point, that is money that will get to businesses that counterpart businesses south of the border will not get even although they have suffered much of the same impact as businesses here in Scotland are suffering.”