TORY party members are being urged by SNP activists not to ditch their contro- versial MP. A senior insider in Aberdeen said last night he was not surprised local Conservatives were looking to replace Ross Thomson with another candidate to fight the next General Election.

“It makes sense from their point of view, but from our point of view we want him to stay,” a leading SNP figure in the city told The National.

“He’s one of our best assets for the next Westminster election. We want to take Aberdeen South back and it would be a shame if the Tories got rid of him before we do.We urge the Tories to keep Ross Thomson.”

Thomson, who has represented Aberdeen South since 2017, is likely to face a challenge by a Tory rival to become the party’s candidate at the next election.

Senior Conservatives in the city are critical of his hardline Brexit stance as well as what they regard as disloyalty to the Prime Minister by siding with anti-EU rebels such as Jacob- Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson.They are irritated by his social media antics and photographs which appeared of him on Facebook sitting on Saddam Hussein’s throne, taken while on a parliamentary visit to Iraq. They believe his behaviour has demonstrated a lack of maturity.

A senior Tory activist told The National earlier this week: “If Ross doesn’t get the support from the local party, he is not going to be put up next time. It doesn’t happen very often, but the procedure is there for him not to be the candidate next time.

“Some people are talking about this. There is disappointment. Ross was one of our young hopefuls, who we thought would go on to do great things, but some of the maturity we expected hasn’t come about.”

Speculation in the city is turning to who could replace Thomson as a candidate. The MSP Liam Kerr, the party’s justice spokesman at Holyrood, is a possibility. Kerr, 43, is a former chair of the Aberdeen City Conservative and Unionist Association and was elected to Holyrood in 2016.

He is understood to be determined to fight the 2021 Scottish Parliament election but a move to Westminster would not be unusual for a Scottish Conservative MSP. Thomson is a former MSP and David Mundell, John Lamont, Douglas Ross have all made the switch from Holyrood to the House of Commons.

A further contender could be Ryan Houghton, who represents the George Street and Harbour ward on Aberdeen City Council.

Douglas Lumsden is another name being discussed. He is co-leader of the council and represents the Airyhall, Broomhill & Garthdee ward which is within Aberdeen South. Last night he said it was “absurd” to suggest the local party were unhappy with Thomson. “Ross has done more than anyone in recent years to revive our fortunes in the city,” he said. “Membership has grown, and we have seen Conservatives elected across all levels of government. This has been a team effort, but it is partly down Ross’s enthusiasm and commitment.

“We had not held Aberdeen South for 20 years before his resounding victory in 2017. His future has never been discussed at any association meeting and the story seems to be completely unfounded. Unlike the SNP, we are allowed to have different views on issues and this story shows how desperate they are.”