KATE Forbes has torn into Douglas Ross during a fiery clash at First Minister’s Questions, saying that voters in Scotland’s north east cannot trust him after he “betrayed” his own Tory colleague in the region.

The Deputy First Minister hit out at the Scots Tory leader amid a clash over oil and gas licences, which followed Ross’s announcement that he would be standing in the General Election.

David Duguid, the former Scotland Office minister, had been widely expected to stand in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat – but was blocked by the Tory party at the last minute.

In his place, Ross was selected to run for Westminster – despite previously pledging to stand down as an MP to focus on his role at Holyrood.

Speaking at FMQs on Thursday, Ross raised the issue of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

While the Tories have previously pledged to “max out” the reserves, the SNP have had a “presumption against” new exploration unless it can meet climate targets.

Ross said: “Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, said clearly the Scottish Government, and I quote, do not agree with the UK Government issuing new oil and gas licences.

“How can the SNP even pretend to support the oil and gas sector and the jobs that are crucial to it when their own Energy Secretary says that.”

Responding, Forbes said it was “very difficult” to believe the Tories on oil and gas when their UK Government colleagues had been “exploiting” Scottish reserves “to fill their budget holes for decades".

She added: “We have never proposed a policy of no further North Sea licencing at all. We have said quite clearly that it had to be compatible with our climate change obligations.”

As Ross continued to push on the issue of oil and gas licences, Forbes said: “Of course, if Douglas Ross wants to back the north east, there's some great big questions for him at this very day.

“On a day that he betrays a Conservative candidate in the north east, who the Conservatives trusted to be a minister in the UK government, who's currently recovering from ill health, who was planning to stand and who was supported by local members.

“Now I'm old enough to remember when Douglas Ross said he wasn't going to stand again for Westminster because he wanted to focus on Holyrood in 2026.”

Forbes further stressed that scientific evidence shows an “urgent need” to transition away from fossil fuels in order to meet international targets.

Previously, First Minister John Swinney has said that the SNP are reviewing their policy of having a presumption against new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

First Minister John Swinney has said the SNP are reviewing their oil and gas policy

Speaking to the media after deputising for Swinney at FMQs, Forbes said the Duguid saga was a “new low” for Ross and his party.

Referring to accusations from unnamed MSPs in newspaper reports, Forbes added: “To quote one of Douglas Ross’s own colleagues, ‘this is straight out of the Farage playbook’ and I do not think it portrays the Conservatives in any decent light.”

Nigel Farage has previously claimed he would not stand in the General Election, only to U-turn, take control of Reform UK, and announce his candidacy in Clacton.

Duguid issued a statement on Wednesday evening saying he had been barred from standing for the Tories for health reasons. 

Speaking to the Scottish Sun on Thursday, Duguid insisted he was fit to stand.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour councillor quits party over 'autocratic' General Election selections

In the social media post, he wrote: “Last week I informed you of my rehabilitation progress and how I was looking forward to campaigning (albeit without knocking on doors) for the upcoming election.

“I am pleased to say that my recovery programme is well on schedule thanks to the excellent NHS staff in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Spinal Injury Unit.

“Notwithstanding this, and despite my having been adopted by our local members, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has informed me tonight that they have decided not to put me forward as their chosen candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.”