Holyrood candidate quits Scottish Tories after labelling food bank users ‘fat’

A Holyrood candidate suspended by the Scottish Conservatives for suggesting “fat” food bank users are “far from starving” has left the party.

Craig Ross also expressed scepticism about the UK Government listening to campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford about food poverty and feeding hungry children.

The Scottish Tories suspended Mr Ross over the “unacceptable comments”, after they were unearthed by the Daily Record newspaper.

The party has now confirmed he is no longer a member and will not be the Tory candidate for the Glasgow Pollok constituency in May’s parliamentary election.

A Scottish Conservative source said: “He left before he was pushed.

“It was made abundantly clear to him that he could not hold those views and be a candidate for the party.”

Responding to a comment about no longer having to “toe the party line”, Mr Ross tweeted: “I suddenly feel as if I can breathe.

“As I said to the party guys this morning – and they were very decent about it – There’s something I should have told the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party a long time ago. I’m actually a Conservative and a unionist.”

Mr Ross faced criticism over comments made on his podcast discussing coverage of people using food banks.

He said: “Their biggest risk is not starvation, it’s diabetes.”

He also claimed Manchester United star Rashford organised an “online mob” to pressure the Government to change its policy on free school meals for pupils.

Mr Ross said: “Has Marcus Rashford stood for election to anything? Not that I’m aware of.

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford

“So should we turn our welfare policy upside down in order to suit Rashford’s view as to what would be decent?”

During the podcast, which aired on June 29, he said: “In this world of such tremendous hunger, in this world where people are routinely struggling to eat, in this world where people appear on Channel 4 News and talk about how their children eat but they don’t because they can’t afford to – almost everybody in that world is grossly overweight.

“And again people can’t accept this. People have no idea how fat they are.

“I’m not saying that every single person who claims to be really hungry and is reliant on charity is also very overweight, but what I am saying is if Channel 4 News is having a reasonable go at showing the reality of food bank usage, then we know that the people that they film are far from starving.”

In the wide-ranging podcast, Mr Ross argued food potentially has less “meaning” now than for generations, reflecting on how he and his family used to “stuff themselves” when food was available.

“Food had a meaning in the 1980s earlier for a lot of folk that perhaps it doesn’t have now,” he said.

“There isn’t really an expectation any longer that you should eat simple things that are full of energy.

“If someone was forced to consider the number of calories in a foodstuff and whether it’s the sort of thing you should buy, that would be thought to be indecent.

“It seems much much better to encourage people to behave unwisely and then end up in a situation where they’re in great need, and then – and only then – we can address their need and suggest that the state has to change this entire welfare policy in order to address that need, which could have been avoided if someone had stood with a packet of ramen noodles some point earlier and recognise what a tremendous good pie they were at that price.”

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf

The would-be MSP also lamented the findings of a report published in the wake of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence that found the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”.

He said: “I remember my pal, the Metropolitan police officer, and his mates, and their reaction to that.

“How nauseated they were, how utterly sickened they were, to be told that there was something called institutional racism and that they worked in the institution and therefore they by implication were racists.

“This is the least racist country in the world.”

On Twitter, current Glasgow Pollok MSP and Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf wrote: “The @ScotTories must sack their candidate for Glasgow Pollok.

“His remarks that those who use foodbanks ‘are far from starving’ are utterly heartless.

“To then go on to deny institutional racism in the context of the murder of Stephen Lawrence is deplorable.”