SCOTTISH Tory leader Douglas Ross has rejected the assertion he is avoiding the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency despite not campaigning for the upcoming by-election in the seat.

A fresh vote will be held before the end of this year to replace Margaret Ferrier – the former MP who was convicted of breaching Covid regulations – with the SNP and Labour expected to be battling it out for the constituency.

The Tories have put up Glasgow councillor Thomas Kerr as their candidate, which is widely seen as a token gesture.

Both Labour and the SNP have been pushing hard in the South Lanarkshire seat – with SNP leader Humza Yousaf undertaking campaigning visits numerous times as well as UK Labour leader Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

READ MORE: 'Lack of respect': Tory MSP panned amid bid to win Westminster seat

While Ross was visiting a business at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, Sarwar and UK Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner were in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

However, the Scottish Tory leader said he was “absolutely not” avoiding the seat, saying there had not actually been a by-election called and adding that he would be campaigning with Kerr.

He said: “I’ve confirmed I’ll be there supporting Thomas, as I say, he’s already launched his campaign, he’s already doing activity there with our local campaigners and I’ll be very proud to support Thomas in that by-election.”

Ross was speaking in the wake of a YouGov poll released on Wednesday which saw his party fall in support at both Westminster and Holyrood, with Labour gaining on the SNP’s lead in a future General Election.

Responding to the news, he said: “These opinion polls go up and down, I don’t get too excited when the polls go up, I don’t get too de-motivated when they go down.

“I think we’ve got to look at the next election and we’re some way off of that.”

The poll, he said, would see the party retain its six seats north of the Border, while he claimed the SNP would “fall very far backwards”.

Asked if he was still the right man to lead the Tories in Scotland, Ross said: “Yes, absolutely.”

Last week, one of the party’s key frontbenchers announced he would seek a seat at Westminster and relinquish his Holyrood position if he won.

The National: Sandesh Gulhane

Dr Sandesh Gulhane (above), the only working doctor in the current Parliament, will seek the East Renfrewshire seat at the election expected next year.

Former education spokesperson Stephen Kerr lost his job on the front bench of the party after his plans to run for Westminster were revealed, but Dr Gulhane has remained in post.

Asked why this was the case, Ross said: “Sandesh is uniquely placed to speak on health matters.

“We have 129 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and only one of them is a qualified, practising GP.

“I think it would have been wrong to have taken that expertise away from the front bench and the health debate and I was delighted that Sandesh agreed to stay on.”