SCOTTISH Tory leader Douglas Ross was accused of “running away” from a key Westminster ballot which saw the Conservatives vote to rewrite the Commons disciplinary process to protect one of their own from suspension.

Owen Paterson, the Tory MP for North Shropshire, was to face a suspension from the Commons after being found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

READ MORE: Cries of 'shame' erupt in Commons as MPs vote to protect Tory who broke rules

Paterson would normally face a suspension, a recall petition, and a potential by-election. Instead, Boris Johnson laid down a three-line whip - the highest level - ordering his MPs to vote to bring the entire process under review, protecting Paterson’s position.

To disobey such a strong order from the top of the party would ordinarily lead to harsh consequences for the MP. However, Douglas Ross did not vote on the change.

Silent before the vote, the Scots Tory leader said afterwards that he “personally couldn’t support changing the rules while an independent process is underway”.

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Scotland Secretary Alister Jack leaves 10 Downing Street following the first cabinet meeting with new Prime minister Boris Johnson on July 25, 2019 in London, England. Britain's New Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appointed

Alister Jack (above), the Scottish Secretary, also did not vote. A spokesperson said this was because he needed to go to Glasgow for “long-standing COP26 commitments”.

The other four Scottish Tory MPs, Andrew Bowie, David Duguid, John Lamont, and David Mundell, all voted with the Government to protect Paterson.

A total of 13 Tories rebelled. Tory Angela Richardson was sacked as a ministerial aide following her decision to abstain.

The Guildford MP, who had been a parliamentary private secretary to Michael Gove, said when she abstained she was “aware that my job was at risk, but it was a matter of principle for me”.

However, Richardson announced the following day that she had been reinstated to the post.

Commenting on Ross’s failure to vote despite a three-line whip in place, SNP MP Pete Wishart (below) hit out at the “special treatment” from the Tory government.

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He said: “It would be interesting to know why the Scottish Conservative leader seems to get special dispensation. This isn’t the first time this has happened.

“He seems to get special treatment to vote as he pleases but the other Conservative members are expected to support the government.

“We deserve an explanation as to what’s going on and how their whipping arrangements actually work. The Scottish Conservatives seem to be all over the place.”

He added: “This was an important moment. Everyone will be looking to their MPs to see how they voted. To run away from this, to simply abdicate your responsibility, will not find favour with constituents.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slams 'classic corruption' of Tories over Owen Paterson scandal

Anti-corruption campaigners, unions, and opposition MPs also condemned the Government’s actions, with the Tories being accused of “wallowing in sleaze” by Labour.

Sir Keir Starmer said it was “corruption”, adding “there is no other word for it”.

The plan to establish the new committee, to be led by former minister John Whittingdale, was immediately thrown into chaos as Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats vowed to boycott it, depriving the panel of any real cross-party authority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, has now suggested that these boycotts led his government to U-turn on their decision.

Rees-Mogg suggested more detailed plans for a restructuring of the MP disciplinary process would be brought forward at a later date and cross-party support would be sought.