DOUGLAS Ross has said the Scottish Tories will stand down candidates in May's Holyrood election in an attempt to beat the SNP.

The Scottish Conservative leader made the unprecented move after Labour and the LibDems rejected his calls for a "pro-UK coalition" after the ballot.

Ross said Alex Salmond's new Alba Party is "gaming the system" and predicts it will win seven seats if it secures just 6% of the regional list vote. Its impact on the Tories, LibDems and Labour could be substantial if Alba secured 10% of the votes.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross urges Unionist parties to commit to 'pro-UK coalition' after election

Ross told the Daily Mail: "If Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats can't wake up to that threat then they are not recognising the clear and present danger from the Alba Party. They are not just taking nationalist votes from the SNP, but they are gaming the system. Alex Salmond understands that they could have a supermajority of nationalist-supporting MSPs if this works out.

"Clearly, that would be to the detriment of the Unionist parties, which is why I think we've got to work together in the face of this threat."

Ross went on to say that he will look at "all options on the table", which could include stepping down candidates in seats like Glasgow Southside where Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is competing with Nicola Sturgeon or North East Fife where LibDem leader Willie Rennie is the SNP's main rival.

Ross added: "We don't have much time which is why I am asking Anas and asking Willie to just sit around the table and we can virtually have a meeting to discuss this – they can put forward proposals, I would put forward proposals.

"But that doesn't stop me from recognising that there are opportunities working together with Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrats if they are willing to do that. If they are not, the public will have to ask why and and back the strongest pro-UK party, which is the Scottish Conservatives."

Ross also said he would consider a pro-UK tactical voting campaign, adding: "To stop an SNP majority and stop this new nationalist threat, I am willing to discuss what it would mean to tactically vote and how to maximise the pro-UK vote in constituencies."

In his letter to Unionist parties, Ross asked the party leaders to pledge to three things:

  • A vote against indyref2 regardless of May’s election results
  • To rule out a coalition or confidence deal with any party looking to hold a referendum
  • To “agree to form a pro-UK, anti-referendum coalition if the opportunity arrives”

In response to Ross's letter about a pro-UK coalition, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told him to “grow up” and LibDem MP Alister Carmichael described him as being “divisive”.

Sarwar said: "As you know, the Scottish Labour Party does not support Scottish independence or a second referendum.

"This election is about taking Scotland forward – we deserve better than your desperate attempts to take us back to old arguments and the politics of the past.  

"In case you hadn't noticed Scotland is in the middle of a pandemic. This election is not some kind of game, it is about focussing on a national recovery.

"This election cannot be about an SNP psychodrama. It cannot be about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond settling old scores. And it cannot be about your petty agenda of game playing.

"This election must be about the people of Scotland, their families and a national recovery. As you have recognised yourself, one of the largest threats to the Union is the leader of your own party. Scotland has had enough of divisive politics which you and Nicola Sturgeon share."

READ MORE: SNP braced for more defections to Alba, says insider

He went on: "Both you and the SNP want to waste time and energy on the imagined conflicts that divide us. But in Scotland, child poverty has risen – and was rising before the pandemic hit.

"This is among countless issues where the blame lies at the feet of both your party in Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood.

"A heartbreaking example of how the obsession with past disagreements fails people today. Rather than entertain your latest desperate plea for attention, I am focusing our energy on what matters – guaranteeing a fairer recovery and a stronger Scotland.

"Scotland deserves a better government and – as your letter demonstrates – it deserves a better opposition."

It comes days after the Scottish Tory campaign launch, in which Ross called for a return to the Better Together spirit of 2014.

Ross has previously reached out to Scottish Labour on the matter of a coalition or working arrangement. At the time the party was in the midst of a leadership election, but both candidates, Monica Lennon and Sarwar, rejected the plea.

Labour’s role in the 2014 No campaign, which saw them working shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to stop independence, is widely cited as a key factor in their decline in Scotland.

The election immediately after the 2014 vote saw the party lose 40 of their 41 seats.