Boris Johnson will not be invited to speak to the Scottish Tory conference, it has emerged, in the wake of infighting over the Prime Minister’s future.
The party has not made a final decision on whether the conference will be virtual or in person, although a venue has been pencilled in for the weekend of March 18 and 19.
Senior party sources said it was “hard to see how he could be there”. However, a spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “No discussions have been had about this.”
Mr Johnson spoke at the Scottish conference in 2020 and 2021 and it would be the first time a UK party leader had been barred from the event.
It came after Jacob Rees-Mogg was on Thursday accused of helping Nicola Sturgeon make the case for Scottish independence for claiming Douglas Ross is a “lightweight figure” following his demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation.
Mr Rees-Mogg directed a series of attacks at the Scottish Tory leader as he toured TV and radio studios attempting to bolster Boris Johnson’s precarious position in Downing Street.
‘Partygate’ claims – Tory MPs react
But senior Scottish Tories said the interventions were “bonkers” and “blue-on-blue madness” which would play into the hands of Ms Sturgeon. One told the Telegraph Mr Rees-Mogg should just shut the f–k up, frankly.”
Their fears were realised when Ms Sturgeon seized on the comments at First Minister’s Questions, arguing the insults directed at Mr Ross said “something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland”.
She said that independence would mean “no longer have to put up with being treated like something on the sole of Westminster’s shoe”.
With 27 out of 31 Tory MSPs at Holyrood publicly calling for Mr Johnson to resign, she questioned why Scotland was having to put up with a Prime Minister “that his own colleagues think is not fit for office”.
Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, yesterday accused the MSPs of having “jumped the gun” by demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation and urged them to reconsider if he is “exonerated” by Sue Gray’s inquiry.
Mr Johnson also announced he is to chair a new forum for talks with Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh and Northern Irish first ministers in an attempt to improve their strained relations.
But senior Scottish Tory strategists are concerned that Mr Johnson clinging on to power will lead to a large spike in support for independence and reopen the debate about breaking away from the UK party.
Mr Ross, the Moray MP, has submitted a letter to the 1922 Committee calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson after the pair held a heated telephone conversation on Wednesday afternoon.
But Mr Rees-Mogg told BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday: “Douglas Ross has always been quite a lightweight figure.”
He refused to back down yesterday and accused Mr Ross of disloyalty to the Prime Minister, saying: “If you take the King’s shilling you are beholden to the crown.”
Jamie Greene, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Justice Secretary at Holyrood, said the comments were “completely unnecessary” and Mr Rees-Mogg “should go and have a long lie down, maybe not in the House of Commons”.
Another Tory MSP said: “To say what he said is bonkers. It is an absolute gift to our opponents, although one that’s somewhat diluted because it was Jacob Rees-Mogg who said it, who they spend their time mocking and deriding as a caricature and an irrelevance.”
‘Utter contempt for Scotland’
Entering the Holyrood chamber ahead of yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg, as anyone, is entitled to their opinions. I don’t have to agree with them.”
Ms Sturgeon told the Holyrood chamber she had “big political differences with Douglas Ross but even I am not as derogatory about him as his own Tory colleagues are being.”
Referring to Mr Rees-Mogg’s ‘lightweight’ comment, she said: ‘These might be personal insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives but actually they say something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland.
“If they can’t show even basic respect for their own colleagues, what chance do the rest of us have?”
Mr Jack yesterday said Mr Ross was "far from a lightweight" and a "very serious politician" as he disclosed he had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Scottish Tory leader to hold off calling for the Prime Minister to quit until the Sue Gray inquiry was completed.
The Dumfries and Galloway MP, who gave his “100 per cent” backing to the Prime Minister, said he hoped Tory MSPs would “reconsider their position” after reading the findings.