Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has said he supports the decision of Ross Thomson to step down, adding he does not think it will harm his party’s electoral prospects.

Mr Thomson announced he would not stand in the General Election on December 12 after Labour MP Paul Sweeney made public allegations he had “groped” him in a Westminster bar.

Speaking at a campaign event in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, on Monday, Mr Carlaw announced the party would stand Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden in the Aberdeen South seat Mr Thomson won in 2017.

Mr Thomson described the claims as “defamatory” in a statement released at the weekend.

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He said he was the victim of a “political smear” and would fight to clear his name but would not be seeking re-election.

Mr Carlaw said he “fully supported” his decision to stand aside.

He said: “I’m sorry that Ross has stood down. I’ve known him for many years. This was a decision he reached entirely of his own account.

“None of us expected this General Election. The House of Commons inquiry into these allegations has not yet finalised and I think that Ross felt that it was too much of a distraction for him to become a huge story.

“I support him in that decision. We’ve now selected a new candidate in Aberdeen South and I feel that he will go on and win the seat.”

Jackson Carlaw campaigningThe Scottish Tory leader said he believes his party will hold the Aberdeen South seat (Craig Paton/PA)

The Scottish Tory leader was on the campaign trail with newly announced candidate for Lanark and Hamilton East Shona Haslam, joined by MSPs Jamie Greene, Annie Wells and Graeme Simpson.

Speaking at an earlier campaign event on Monday, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said it was right for Mr Thomson to stand aside.

She told the PA news agency: “It’s not for me to judge the veracity of those allegations.

“I know there are investigations underway but I think in all of the circumstances I think it’s probably better that Ross Thomson is not a candidate in this election.”

The Scottish Tory leader felt the allegations against Mr Thomson would not harm his party’s chances in the north-east seat.

He said: “I was out there campaigning a few weeks ago because there just so happens to be a council by-election in that seat.

“Our national message is certainly one that resonates there.

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“People don’t want a second independence referendum, they told me they want to see Brexit sorted and we actually want to move onto the issues that matter to us.

“I think Douglas Lumsden, who is well known to everybody in the area as the leader of the council, will take that message forward and I’m quite confident of the outcome in the election on December 12.”

Mr Lumsden said he was “honoured” to have been selected as the candidate for the seat.

He added: “I want to first pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of Ross Thomson over the past two years.

“He has made a personal decision to step down, but he has always been a great champion for this city.”