BRANDING Douglas Ross a “lightweight” proved Jacob Rees-Mogg’s “immeasurable ignorance” about Scotland and underlined the UK Government’s disdain for devolution, a former senior civil servant has said.

The Conservative Cabinet minister made the comment about the Scottish Tory leader after he publicly called for Boris Johnson to resign over the partygate scandal.

Philip Rycroft, who served as the permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union from 2017 to 2019, said his “heart sank” when he heard the remarks from Rees-Mogg, while a Scottish Tory MP called for the minister to apologise.

Andrew Bowie, speaking to BBC Radio 4, was asked if he’s had a “private word” with Rees-Mogg. “No, I haven't seen Jacob since he made those comments but he was utterly wrong to characterise Douglas Ross in any way, a lightweight figure,” he replied.

The West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP stopped short of backing his Scottish leader’s call for the Prime Minister to resign, stating that a decision should be made once civil servant Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties is published.

Bowie continued: “I know that Jacob contested a constituency in Fife in I think 1997, so he has some knowledge I'm sure of what Scottish politics is like. But for your listeners that don't, it is it is not for the faint-hearted and Douglas has proven himself in leading the Scottish Conservative Party to a record number of votes in last year's Holyrood election, equalling a record number of seats.

“He is by no way a lightweight and I think Jacob should apologise for those comments. I think they were misjudged and frankly out of character actually. Every interaction I've had with Jacob he's been overly polite and courteous, and I do wonder if he regrets making those comments now.”

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The Scottish Tory MP side-stepped a question about Rees-Mogg’s comments undermining his party’s campaign at future general elections. The host put it to him that Ross would struggle to “credibly” urge Scottish voters to back Boris Johnson, while the SNP would campaign with leaflets that say the Scottish Conservatives are led by a “lightweight”.

“The SNP will put on their leaflets to vote for them for another independence referendum and we’ll be quite clear that that’s not in the interests of the people of Scotland,” Bowie replied.

Rycroft, who lives in Scotland, was also asked for his reaction to Rees-Mogg’s remarks.

The National:

“I have to say my heart sank, not for the first time,” he told BBC Radio 4. “I absolutely hear what Andrew said about maybe [the comments] being out of character and all this but for goodness sake. I mean, it just sort of seems to demonstrate an immeasurable ignorance, frankly, about what's going on in Scotland at the moment. I may be being unfair in saying that, but that's how it comes across.

“Ultimately it’s not just disrespectful to Douglas Ross. It's also, I think, disrespectful to the facts of devaluation, and you sort of get the impression that Jacob Rees-Mogg rather wishes that the clock could be turned back to the time he was campaigning back in 1997, pre-devolution, just as he would quite like apparently to turn the clock back on a whole lot of other things.

“It frankly doesn't help the debate in Scotland when … folk in the south take that sort of disparaging attitude.”

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Speaking to Newsnight last week, Rees-Mogg brushed off Ross’s call for Johnson to resign by stating he “has always been quite a lightweight figure”.

Michael Gove was equally dismissive, saying Ross was “in Elgin, and the national Tory leader is in London”.