DOUGLAS Ross has not ruled out forming a coalition with other pro-union parties in an attempt to unseat the SNP at Holyrood.

Speaking to journalists at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, the Scottish leader said he was unconvinced that Labour had the drive to stop the SNP and suggested Anas Sarwar had ‘given up on the ambition’.

Mr Ross also said categorically he would still be leader of the Scottish Conservatives by the time Nicola Sturgeon leaves her post, and re-stated his intention of visiting working class communities alongside the First Minister.

HeraldScotland:

It comes after the MP claimed in his conference speech on Sunday that the SNP had become “detached from working class communities”, to which Ms Sturgeon challenged him to join her on a visit to such communities in Scotland.

He said: “I won't take any lectures from any one about my working class credentials, let alone a First Minister who is so detached from reality and the issues facing working class communities across Scotland, that when I raise this issue she gets so sensitive about it.

“I look forward to, very soon, being out and about on a walkabout with her to working class communities across Scotland.”

READ MORE: Douglas Ross accepts Nicola Sturgeon's dare to visit working class area together

Asked who would be the leader of their party for longer, him or Ms Sturgeon, Mr Ross replied: “I will be leader of the Scottish Conservatives after Nicola Sturgeon has stepped down as leader of the SNP.”

Asked who he thought may replace Ms Sturgeon, Mr Ross suggested the SNP had “significant problems” trying to find a new leader, saying: “I will be a strong opposition to whoever leads the SNP in the Scottish Government in this Parliament.

“Humza Yousaf has said himself that he sees himself being the captain of the team. I think a lot of the team players behind him are now very worried.”

Asked about another possible successor, Angus Robertson, Mr Ross joked that he “knew how to beat Angus” after he took his Westminster seat from him in 2017. 

HeraldScotland: Angus Robertson Byline Photo

He added: “There are a number of issues for the SNP and whoever leads the SNP after Nicola Sturgeon will be inheriting her record, which is [one] of record drug deaths in Scotland going up every single year she's been First Minister, to levels of the worst in Europe, an NHS in crisis, educational standards reducing and so many problems.”

Asked if he would consider forming a coalition with another political party to tackle the SNP, Mr Ross said: “ The closer we get to the next election,  I'm sure that's a discussion we'll have, but I made an offer in the most recent election campaign and Labour and the Liberal Democrats took a few minutes to decide they wouldn't work with us, yet Labour are in coalition with the SNP in six councils across Scotland.

“I'd rather see the other parties being serious about trying to get this SNP out of office. They're clearly not.

“They won't work with me and, and other parties to do that so if it's by necessity, it will be the Scottish Conservatives that are working hard to get the SNP office because no one else seems to be up to that challenge.”

READ MORE: Douglas Ross vows to 'end nationalism for good' in keynote address

Mr Ross has sought to position the Scottish Conservatives as the party of Scotland’s working classes throughout the conference.

Asked if he thought working class Scots would be able to relate to Rishi Sunak’s hints at possible future tax rises, or his inability to give a timeframe on when taxes may be reduced, he said they would understand the situation.

He explained: “ I think everyone realises what we've been through over the last 19 months.

"There has to be an economic response to that, you know, if we were a straight out the 2019 general election and we didn't have a COVID pandemic and we didn't have more than a year of restrictions, a huge a fiscal stimulus to keep the economy afloat and to protect people's jobs we wouldn't be in the situation we're in.

“But we are, and I think people understand we can't pass the state burden on to next generation.”

READ MORE: Sunak will not cut taxes until country 'stable' and announces new jobs scheme

Mr Ross was asked if he had discussed his plan to appeal to working class Scots with the Prime Minister, after Boris Johnson appeared in a television interview not to be aware of his Scottish counterpart’s remarks.

The MP for Moray replied that he was in “regular” discussions with the Mr Johnson, but he did “pass my speech to the Prime Minister to get signed off.”

The Scottish Conservatives leader was also challenged about the cuts to universal credit, and reiterated his previous remarks that the Scottish Government could fund a replacement to the £20 per week cut if it so wished.

On vaccine passports, the Scottish Conservatives leader said he did not believe deputy FM John Swinney when he said the app had been working well over the last few days, after it was plagued with problems when it initially launched.

HeraldScotland: File photo dated 16/12/15 of Deputy First Minister John Swinney who has said Holyrood and Westminster are still a "significant distance" from reaching agreement on new funding arrangements for Scotland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thurs

He said: “Will I listen to John Swinney who says everything's fine, or to the Night-time Industries Association, who say it's a complete shambles?

“I think I'm going to listen to those on the ground who are seeing it as a complete shambles, rather than John Swinney who introduced this legislation at great pace with very little consultation, not listening to all of the concerns that were raised.

“I think we are going to see time and time again that the system is flawed. It should have been scrapped, and at the very least it should have been delayed until these problems were solved.”