JACKSON Carlaw has said he “respects and understands” the  resignation of a Tory Scottish minister over the Dominic Cummings affair.

The Scottish Tory leader said departure of Moray MP Douglas Ross from the Scotland Office would be a “great loss” to the department and the UK Government.

Mr Carlaw said: “I accept Douglas’s position and respect the decision he has come to.

“This is a difficult situation for many, and people will arrive at different judgements.

“Douglas will be a huge loss to government and I thank him for all he’s done at the Scotland Office.

“I am in no doubt that he will continue to serve his Moray constituents with diligence and commitment, as he has done since first being elected.”

The SNP said the issue was now a test of Mr Carlaw's leadership and he should back its call for the Prime Minister to sack Mr Cummings.

The Scottish LibDems also called on Mr Carlaw to demand Mr Cummings be dismissed.

Mr Carlaw’s praise for Mr Ross will add to discomfort in Downing Street, which had been trying to put the row over Mr Cummings behind it this morning.

It was markedly warmer that the dry statement issued by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who said: “I would like to thank Douglas Ross for his contribution as a minister at the Scotland Office. I know he will continue to be a dedicated and hardworking constituency MP for Moray.”

Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, held an extraordinary hour long press conference last night justifying his decision to break the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Mr Cummings drove 260-miles from London to his family’s farm in Durham with his wife and four-year-old child, saying he needed to ensure child care if both parents fell sick. 

He also took a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, his wife’s birthday, saying he had needed to test his eyesight before driving back to London.

Mr Ross, a former MSP and MP for Moray since 2017, announced he was standing down as a junior Scotland Office minister just after 9.20am because of the public mood.

He said: "I have constituents who didn't get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn't visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. 

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right.

“This is not a decision I have reached quickly. I have waited to hear all of the information and thought long and hard over this. I realise both the immediate and long-term implications of my decision to resign from government.

“While it has been a great privilege to serve as a Minister, my first duty is to be a representative and I feel I can best represent toy Moray constituents and many across the country who have expressed their feelings about this by resigning as a Minister.”

SNP MSP George Adam said: “The public have no confidence in Boris Johnson’s handling of the Dominic Cummings disaster – which has completely undermined public health messaging. 

“Jackson Carlaw’s defence of Cummings was tone deaf to begin with. 

“Now that the fury felt within his own party is becoming obvious, Carlaw looks even more out of touch. 

“This scandal is a test of leadership which Jackson Carlaw is failing every bit as much as his boss Boris Johnson. 

“It’s time for the Scottish Tories to do the right thing and back the public who’ve followed the guidance – instead of trying to curry favour with Boris Johnson.

“Jackson Carlaw must now call on the Prime Minister to sack Dominic Cummings.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Douglas was a fair and reasonable minister who has done the decent thing and resigned from a government that is out of control.

“Integrity has been sadly lacking from this government, especially over the last 72 hours, so I commend him for making this difficult decision.

“He understands that it’s not acceptable to have one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else.

“Douglas has shown more integrity than Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw and other UK Government ministers who have defended the indefensible and couldn’t be more out of touch with the people of Scotland and the UK.”

Scottish LibDem MP Wendy Chamberlain said: "The volume of correspondence that I have had from constituents appalled at Dominic Cummings has been unprecedented.

"Douglas Ross has done the honourable thing. Now Jackson Carlaw should join him in calling for Cummings to be sacked.

"He has utterly undermined the government's public health message while my constituents have missed birthdays, illnesses and funerals by staying home and doing the right thing.

“It cannot be one rule for senior government officials and one rule for everyone else. Boris Johnson is losing the trust of his own Ministers and his judgement is seriously in question.”

Mr Ross’s resignation creates a vacancy at the Scotland Office, but there are only three potential candidates among Scots MPs.

The most eager will be Borders MP John Lamont and the ultra-ambitious Aberdeenshire MP Andrew Bowie.

There is also the Banff & Buchan MP David Duguid, whose connection to the fishing sector may be useful in the next phase of Brexit.

As Boris Johnson sacked Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell as Scottish Secretray he is effectively excluded.

There is also the option to apppoint a peer to the junior post. 

The holder before Mr Ross was Baron Duncan of Springbank, the former Scottish Tory MEP Ian Duncan.