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SNP MP flashes red card in Commons during attack on Tory

Douglas Ross is missing universal credit vote to officiate at football match in Barcelona.

By STV News

Published 18 Oct 2017.

An SNP MP brandished a red card during Prime Minister's Questions in an attack on a Scottish Tory who is missing a crucial vote to officiate at a football match.

Douglas Ross will be unable to cast his vote after the Commons debate on universal credit as he will be in Spain running the line as an assistant referee when Barcelona take on Olympiakos at the Nou Camp.

SNP MP John McNally pulled the red card from his pocket at PMQs on Wednesday, asking Theresa May what message the absence would send to members of the public who were "expected to turn up to their day jobs or face sanctions".

The Prime Minister responded by defending Ross, who represents Moray, saying Scottish Tory MPs are doing more for Scottish interests at Westminster "than the Scottish Nationalists have ever done".

Labour are hoping to win a symbolic victory in an opposition day vote later on Wednesday, which will call for the roll-out of universal credit reforms to be paused.

The expansion of universal credit, merging six benefits into one, has been plagued by a number of issues.

Thousands of claimants have had to wait longer than the standard six weeks to receive payments, a period already criticised by charities as being too long.

Many have been plunged into debt and arrears as they wait to receive their funds.

McNally, MP for Falkirk, asked May: "Does the Prime Minister notice that I am wearing a red card in my pocket today?

"She will be aware that the honourable member for Moray is not in his place. Indeed, he is in Barcelona doing his other job, today of all days.

"What signal does she think this sends to hard-working members of the public who are expected to turn up to their day jobs or face sanctions?"

May replied: "I think the constituents of Moray will be very pleased that they have a Conservative member of parliament who is seeing their interests in this House.

"And I can say to him that the Conservatives, the Scottish Conservative members, are doing more for the interests of Scotland in this parliament than the Scottish Nationalists have ever done."

Fellow Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie had earlier defended his colleague, saying Ross had personally raised concerns over welfare reforms with work and pensions secretary David Gauke.

Bowie said: "I think the people of Moray are quite happy for him to continuing refereeing as well as being their MP and he's doing a very good job at both."

He added: "Douglas has held over 50 surgeries since becoming a member of parliament."

Bowie spoke out after shadow Scotland Office minister Paul Sweeney accused Ross of having a "perverse sense of priorities".

The Labour MP said: "The rollout of universal credit has blighted lives across the country, forcing many to rely on food banks and crisis grants to get by.

"Yet Mr Ross doesn't even have the decency to turn up to parliament and explain why he supports putting people through such misery.

Ross has been an MP since June, when he ousted the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson to win the Moray seat.

It is not the first time he has missed parliamentary duties for his second job as an assistant referee, a role which earns him around thousands of pounds in addition to his salary as an MP.

Last year, while as an MSP before standing successfully for a Westminster seat, Ross missed a number of justice committee meetings and a vote on a motion concerning the SNP's council tax plans.

Ross last officiated a European club football match in August when he ran the line at the Europa League qualifying match between NK Domzale and Marseille.

Westminster's register of MPs' interests shows he was paid £1436.35 for the game.

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