ALISTER Jack has come out in defence of his “real friend” Douglas Ross as the Scottish Tory leader battles brewing rebellions in his own party.

The Scottish Secretary’s intervention comes after reports that Ross is facing “at least” two challenges to his leadership, with a possibility that moves could be made before Christmas.

Asked by journalists about the reports, the Moray MP hit out at the “anonymous briefings” against him, saying they handed “ammunition to the opposition when we should be firing all our ammunition towards a failing SNP government”.

Ross added: “If I get to Hogmanay and I’m still the leader, clearly I will have outlived some of the expectations of the Scottish media. I will be toasting that on Hogmanay — and I hope others will be too.”

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Jack has previously faced accusations of anonymously briefing against Ross after he called for the disgraced former prime minister Boris Johnson to resign for partying while the rest of the UK sat in lockdown.

The Scottish Secretary held onto his position through the change of leadership in No10, and has now come out in defence of Ross.

Speaking at a Scottish Tory reception at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Jack insisted that there was “no one better to do the job” of leading the party north of the Border.

Calling him a “fantastic leader”, The Times quoted the Dumfries and Galloway MP as saying Ross had “political wit and wisdom that I can learn from and that’s a great thing”.

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Jack (below) went on: “I’ve said before when you go into politics, I was told you’d be lucky to come out the other side having, you might have lots of colleagues, you’d be lucky to come out the other side with five friends, as many friends as you have fingers on your hand.

“And I’ll tell you this, and I’m very happy to say now and I will say at any time, Douglas has become a real friend to me, we work very closely together.”

The National: Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack speaking during the Scottish Conservative Conference at P&J Live, The Exhibition Centre, Aberdeen. Picture date: Saturday March 19, 2022..

It comes as Ross challenged the people in the Scottish Tory party plotting against him to come out of the shadows.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, the Moray MP said he could survive at the head of his party until the next General Election – and that Liz Truss could “absolutely” survive as Prime Minister as well.

Asked about the moves against him, Ross said: “If these anonymous sources want to put their name to it, then I'll happily go and speak to them.”

Asked if he knew who was plotting his downfall, he said: “I have my views but I'll keep that to myself. They are anonymous because they are not willing to put their name to it.

“When they put their name to it, then I'll have an open discussion with some of them.”

The whispers of mutiny come after yet another of the U-turns which have characterised Ross’s time at the head of his party.

The Scottish Tory leader initially backed Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s plan to abolish the upper 45% rate of income tax – even calling for Scotland to follow suit.

However, after Kwarteng announced a screeching U-turn on Monday morning, Ross said it had been the “right decision”.

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It comes after frequent U-turns on whether Boris Johnson should resign as prime minister over the partygate scandals.

Ross has also faced an exodus of key backroom staff, losing his head of digital, director of communications, and head of staff in rapid succession.

He was publicly embarrassed after hiring Craig Paterson as part of a replacement drive, claiming he had formed a key part of Scottish Labour’s team under Jim Murphy.

However, Paterson’s offer of employment was withdrawn after Murphy said he had never heard of or worked with him.