DOUGLAS Ross has repeatedly refused to deny having a hand in Jackson Carlaw's early exit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

The Moray MP, who replaced Mr Carlaw unopposed last week, was pressed about his role in an alleged plot on BBC Radio Scotland.

It emerged last week that the former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had visited Mr Ross in his rural home four days before Mr Carlaw quit on July 30.

Boris Johnson and cabinet office minister Michael Gove also met Mr Ross just before Mr Carlaw said he had reached the painful conclusion that someone else should lead his party into the 2021 election.

The Eastwood MSP had been in the job less than six months, and party sources have claimed he was pushed out after failing to make an impression with voters or make headway against the SNP, which is now riding higher in the polls.

Ms Davidson backed Mr Ross for the leadership within minutes of Mr Carlaw’s resignation statement being published in a ‘joint ticket’ arrangement until the election. 

Until Mr Ross, an MSP for a year before moving to Westminster in 2017, returns to Holyrood next year, she will face Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions.

Mr Ross last week refused to say what he had talked to Ms Davidson about when she visited him, insisting it was a “private meeting”.

It later emerged that, according to its electronic time-stamp, the logo on Mr Ross’s leadership website was created before Mr Carlaw announced he had quit.

On BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime, host John Beattie repeatedly pushed Mr Ross about Mr Carlaw’s departure and his role in a potential plot to oust him.

Mr Ross said: “It’s a private meeting, John, and if you and I were ever to have a private meeting it would stay that way, you can be assured of that.

“As you know full well, from Jackson Carlaw’s own resignation statement, a very brave statement from someone who reflected over the summer himself that he was not the right person to take the party forward, I think Jackson made that very clear in his own statement.”

Asked if he had known on July 26, the date of his meeting with Ms Davidson, that Mr Carlaw was leaving, Mr Ross said: “No.”

Asked if he had been "plotting the overthrow" of Mr Carlaw, he said: “John, John, I’ve said it was a private meeting, and that’s what I respect, privacy.”

Asked why he didn’t simply deny plotting against Mr Carlaw, Mr Ross said: “And then you’d ask me a series of other questions, which I don’t think is right.”

Pressed again why he didn’t just deny plotting to remove Mr Carlaw, Mr Ross said: “I’m quite sure, John, you get my point. Politicians are allowed a private life as well, and Ruth came to my home and we had a private meeting and a private discussion, which two grown up adults are allowed to do.”

Mr Beattie said: “The listeners can make up their own minds.”