The newly appointed leader of the Scottish Conservatives was forced to apologise on Sunday after he missed a VJ Day memorial event to work as a linesman at a Scottish Premiership football game.
Douglas Ross, a part-time assistant referee who has led the party for just two weeks, admitted it had been “wrong” to attend the game instead of a two-minute silence in his constituency.
Neil Findlay, a Labour MSP, accused him of being a “part time MP” and said the decision had exposed the Tory politician’s “appalling judgment and, frankly, his arrogance too”.
Mr Ross has previously pledged to give up refereeing if elected as Scotland’s first minister in the Holyrood elections next May 2021. Saturday’s match took place between Kilmarnock and St Johnstone at Rugby Park.
He faces an uphill battle to boost the party’s image after the Scottish Conservatives lost seven of their 13 Westminster seats in last year’s December general election.
In a statement on Sunday morning, Mr Ross said he had been selected to officiate a football game before he was invited to the VJ Day event, and offered his apologies in advance that he could not attend.
“But when it became clear there was a clash, I should have asked to be taken off my game. I got this wrong and I’m sorry”, he said.
“I had not anticipated there being an official VJ Day event given the current restrictions due to Covid, but when it became clear there was a conflict, I should have asked to be taken off my game.
“I got this wrong and I apologise. I am a proud and passionate supporter of the armed forces and our veterans.
“I represent a constituency with a significant military presence and have worked with local and national charities supporting veterans throughout my time as an elected representative. I made an error of judgment here and apologise to any veteran who was offended.”
Mr Ross, formerly a junior Scotland minister in Boris Johnson’s government, was the only minister to resign over the prime minister’s handling of accusations that his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, breached coronavirus lockdown rules with a trip to north-east England.
He was uncontested in the race to succeed his predecessor, Jackson Carlaw, who resigned in July after just five months in the role, saying he had reached the “painful conclusion” that he was not the best person to lead the party.