DOUGLAS Ross has claimed that reaching the number of letters from Tory MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson is “closer than it is further away”.

The Scottish Tory leader said that it was clear the number of MPs unhappy with Johnson’s premiership is higher than those who have spoken out publicly due to the number of letters sent to chairman of the committee Sir Graham Brady.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Drive Time, Ross said that there was a “significant” operation underway by Tory whips to get MPs to withdraw their letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson refuses to say Douglas Ross is NOT a 'lightweight'

Ross also said he hadn’t spoken to Johnson or Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, who dubbed Ross a “lightweight” figure, since he called for the PM’s resignation.

The comments sparked a Tory civil war, with Tory MSPs in Scotland calling for Johnson to resign, and Westminster top Tories such as Rees-Mogg, hitting out at them to defend the PM.

It comes after a tense PMQs where Johnson again dodged calls to resign and told MPs to wait for the outcome of civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into numerous parties held at Downing Street while lockdown restrictions were in place.

And now, Ross, who last week called for the PM to stand down when he admitted to breaching the rules, has said he stands by his position.

The National:

Ross said there was a "significant" operation under way by Tory whips

He said: “Well, I've made my position clear on the Prime Minister and I knew it wouldn't happen immediately. You know, that is a process to go through.

“I think what we've seen over the last few days is more and more MPs publicly seeing, and they take a similar position to me that regretfully, they've reached this conclusion.

“And there's a feeling that we're getting closer and closer to the 54 number of letters required to go into the 1922 Committee, which suggests that there are far more than those of us who have publicly stated our position that are unhappy with the current Prime Minister and his position leading the Conservative Party.”

Ross’s comments come after red wall Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to the Labour party just minutes before PMQs was due to kick off on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour members' fury over Christian Wakeford defection

The Scottish Tory leader, and also an MP, said that there has been work going on behind the scenes in a bid to stop the vote of no confidence in Johnson.

However, he added only Brady would know the true figure of letters which have been submitted.

Asked if he believed the threshold for 54 letters was close, he said: “I think it is near but while members can submit letters they can also withdraw their letters and I know that is a significant operation going on by the whips at the moment encouraging colleagues who may have submitted a letter to withdraw again.

“So I do think we're on a bit of a roller coaster ride. It's going up and down. But I think most people believe we are getting closer to a 54 number than further away.”

The National:

Johnson faced multiple calls to resign at PMQs on Wednesday

Asked if he would be left in a difficult position if Johnson remains in post, Ross said: “Well, I think we've seen an awful lot of support for my position from MSP colleagues in Holyrood. I've spoken to council leaders, I'm speaking to members all the time.

“I'm not saying it’s universally 100% behind me because I understand people support the Prime Minister.

“They want him to get on with the job that we were all elected here to do just a couple of years ago, but I do believe our efforts are being hampered by some of the decisions he took and indeed some of the comments that he's made to get through this period and I think that's been perhaps the most damaging of all is the misleading statements that people can't reconcile with the evidence you have in front of them.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson aide denies reports PM has been in tears during meetings with angry MPs

And, asked if he would do a U-turn, taking on Scotland Secretary Alister Jack’s advice to support the PM, Ross said: “I think my position is pretty clear. I didn't take that decision lightly.

“I thought about it a lot before I took that decision. And I think people know my position and previously, I've taken, I think sometimes tough, unpopular positions, but I don't change them lightly.”