Speaking to journalists on Monday at the UK party’s conference in Manchester, he claimed he had spoken to “a number” of disgruntled backbenchers about “ways that parliament can” hold the Scottish Government to account.
Mr Ross refused to say which SNP MSPs he had spoken to. However, last month, veteran MSP Fergus Ewing was suspended from the party for a week after he voted in favour of a Tory motion of no confidence in Green minister Lorna Slater.
And the Scottish Tory leader also pointed to an interview with Kate Forbes in The Herald on Monday, when she expressed frustration about the Scottish Government’s approach to the Highlands.
He said: “I’ve made it very clear, if I can see there is an opportunity to have a vote in the Scottish Parliament to end the Bute House Agreement, then I hope some of these dissenting voices in the SNP would get behind that and vote the Greens out of office.”
But on Tuesday, Ms Forbes robustly denied taking part in talks with the Scottish Tory chief.
Taking to X, formerly Twitter, she said: “Douglas ‘Three Jobs’ Ross hardly spends any time in Scot Parl or speaking to his own party colleagues.
“Which is only one of the many, many reasons why I’ve never said more than a passing hello to him since he was elected.
“Conference hyperbole compensating for a failed Tory Gov.”
Douglas ‘three jobs’ Ross hardly spends any time in Scot Parl or speaking to his own party colleagues. Which is only one of the many, many reasons why I’ve never said more than a passing hello to him since he was elected. Conference hyperbole compensating for a failed Tory Gov.
— Kate Forbes MSP (@_KateForbes) October 3, 2023
Fellow leadership rival Ash Regan also took to X to rubbish the claims.
“Constructive dialogue within @theSNP is essential for growth; but let’s be very clear: the future of our party, and of Scotland itself, is too important to be swayed by backroom talks with those who don’t share our vision for an independent nation,” she tweeted.
Mr Yousaf was asked about the Scottish Tory leader’s comments during a by-election campaign stop in Blantyre.
The First Minister said he doubted Mr Ross’s claims.
He added: “I would say to any SNP MSP, MP or elected official, that the only way we’re going to get Scotland’s independence is by working together and of course the Conservatives as a party are anti-Scottish devolution, let alone anti-Scottish independence.
“They don’t work in Scotland’s interests. In fact, the Conservatives work against Scotland’s interests time and time again and anybody seeking to shore up support for Conservatives, I think is working against Scotland’s interests.”
Asked if he needed to do more to build party unity, Mr Yousaf said: “Well look, I will do everything that is in my gift.
“My door has always been an open one since the moment I took office as First Minister
“That won’t stop me from talking to people that I disagree with that have a difference of opinion in terms of the direction that I’m taking the party in, but I would certainly caution anybody who is aligning themselves or working with, speaking to in any way shape or form Conservatives who have shown time and time and time again, that they will work against the interests of Scotland.”
Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “Douglas very deliberately, and rightly, did not name the SNP figures who contacted him.
“However, I would urge all of those in the SNP who are alarmed at the malign influence the extremist Greens are having on Scotland to work with the Scottish Conservatives and others to help remove them from government.
“It’s no good someone like Kate Forbes complaining about the SNP-Green coalition betraying our Highland constituents, if she’s too obsessed with independence to work with us to do something about it.”