DOUGLAS Ross has confirmed he intends to continue as an MP if elected to Holyrood.

The Scottish Tory leader, who has been the MP for Moray since 2017, said he planned to combine the role with being a list MSP for the Highlands & Islands.

THE SNP and other parties criticised the move.

But Mr Ross said Alex Salmond and many others had also been “dual mandate” parliamentarians.

Like Mr Salmond, he also said he intended to set up a charity so that his MSP’s salary went to good causes, and promised not to take “a single penny” from the arrangement. 

However Mr Ross previously quit as a dual mandate parliamentarian when first elected to Westminster.

After becoming a Highlands & Islands MSP in 2016, he was elected the MP for Moray in the snap general election a year later, and resigned as an MSP just three days later.

HeraldScotland:

His new approach comes as the SNP steps up its criticism of dual mandate politicians in order to attack Mr Ross, despite its own track record in producing them.

Mr Salmond spent seven of his 11 years at Holyrood as both an MP and MSP, while in the first term of the Scottish Parliament, five other SNP MSPs were also MPs, including John Swinney.

On Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked Boris Johnson to order Mr Ross to resign his Moray seat and have a byelection on the same day as the Holyrood vote.

Mr Blackford boasted SNP MP Neil Gray had resigned his Airdrie & Shotts seat to move to Holyrood in order to avoid a stand-alone byelection costing taxpayers up to £175,000. 

However the attack backfired after it emerged the Airdrie & Shotts byelection is due to be the week before the Holyrood vote because of Covid safety measures, meaning the SNP is the only party costing taxpayers up to £175,000 for a byelection triggered by an MP flitting to Holyrood.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross urges voters to 'rediscover the Better Together spirit'

Asked how he could justify being a part-time opposition leader after launching the Scottish Tory campaign launch this morning in Aberdeen, Mr Ross said: “I will continue as the Member of Parliament for Moray. It’s my home area. It’s the only constituency I’ve ever stood for and I was proud to be elected the MP for Moray in 2017, defeating the then SNP leader at Westminster [Angus Robertson] and to be re-elected in 2019.

“And of course dual mandates are not new. In the first Scottish Parliament in 1999, a number of Scottish Labour MPs stood for Holyrood, were elected and became government ministers and continued to be MPs until the following election in 2001.

“And the SNP have history with a former MP who was an MSP, party leader and First Minister of Scotland. That was actually the SNP policy up until a few months ago when for their own reasons they decided not to allow people to have dual mandates.

“I believe I can continue to be an effective MP for the people of Moray, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Mr Ross is the top ranked candidate on his party’s Highlands & Islands regional list, effectively guaranteeing him election to Holyrood in May.

As an MP, he earns just under £82,000. As a dual mandate MSP, he would get another £21,490, a third of the usual MSP’s salary.

READ MORE: FMQs sketch - Goodbye to all that

Asked if he would follow Mr Salmond’s example and give away part of his combined salary, he said: “How much will I trouser? Absolutely not a single penny.

“The entirety of my MSP salary will not be taken by me.

“I’ll look at ways to set up a charity as had been done in the past, but I will not benefit financially at all from being both an MP and an MSP.

“For me, it was never about that, it was about continuing to represent the constituents who elected me in 2019, and representing I hope the Highlands & Islands in the Scottish Parliament and leading the Scottish Conservatives.”

An SNP spokesperson said: "Douglas Ross clearly has no confidence he will win in Moray, which is why he's hedging his bets by keeping his job as an MP and standing to be an MSP. 

"Any MP or MSP will tell you that their caseload has gone through the roof recently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Douglas Ross and his ambitions to hold four jobs - MP, MSP, party leader and an SFA linesman - only serves to let down the people of Moray who need strong representation in both parliaments."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who is standing against Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside as well as the Glasgow list, said of Mr Ross: “All I’ll say is this. It’s not really an expression of confidence. 

"Ruth Davidson is vacating the seat and going elsewhere. That’s not an expression of confidence.

"He’s not willing to stand down from his Westminster seat to challenge in the Scottish Parliament. That’s not an expression of confidence.

"I'm expressing confidence in this election."

Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said: “Not for the first time, it appears that something the SNP were silent about when Alex Salmond did it is now unacceptable to them a few years later. 

"They may have a fresh desire to airbrush history but Mr Salmond has the double pension to prove it.

“Double jobbing was wrong when Salmond did it and it is still wrong now. Those paying the price will be the voters. They deserve better than part-time service from their representatives.”