The Scottish Tory leader made the comment as he faced a range of questions from callers on a BBC leader’s phone-in earlier this morning.
He said people should “vote for the strongest party to stop the SNP”, but refused to give a straight answer, prompting the caller to note that politicians appear not to have “yes or no in their vocabulary”.
Speaking on the BBC show, the Scottish Tory leader consistently reaffirmed his opposition to a referendum on independence, but failed to answer when asked how blocking such a vote would lead to the unity he is calling for.
The Moray MP was quizzed on a comment he made during the BBC leaders’ debate, which the caller took to mean he “would not work with any pro-indy party on any other policies”.
Ross told BBC listeners: “What I said is we can’t concentrate on climate change or any of these other issues when a nationalist government are focused on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK.
“Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear … that she believes a referendum can be held during our recovery phase, so we can’t concentrate on climate change, we can’t focus on our recovery.”
He was then asked: “While they are still talking about another independence referendum you will not work with them on any issue?”
Ross replied: “What I’m saying is we can’t.
“There is not the focus within the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament when it’s dominated by constitutional issues rather than on climate change, the environment, protecting people’s jobs, on education, on the health service, that’s where the focus has to be.”
Asked if one way to ensure that focus was to have an independence vote to find out what the public want, Ross denied it would have that effect.
He insisted that a referendum would not put an end to the constitutional division as the SNP would “probably not” accept the result of a vote that did not go their way.
The Scottish Tory leader also faced questions about who exactly controlled his party. Ross was asked whether Boris Johnson really held the power in the Tory parties across the UK, and on the influence of former party leader Ruth Davidson (above).
Ross insisted he had control and not Johnson, and defended his party’s decision to feature outgoing MSP and future baroness Davidson on the front of their leaflets, despite the fact that she is not standing for election.
He denied accusations that the message being presented to voters was that Davidson would be “pulling the strings” should the Tories be elected.
Ross said he had a “great relationship” with the former party leader and insisted that, as his face is “on the leaflet as well”, voters are not being deceived into thinking they are voting for Davidson.
He also said that he was unsure whether the Prime Minister would come to Scotland to campaign, citing the Covid pandemic.
Covid restrictions in late January did not prevent Johnson visiting sites across central Scotland, and he said at the time that “wild horses” would not keep him from campaigning in the Holyrood elections.
It was suggested to Ross that scandals such as the misuse of public funds by Downing Street prevented Johnson showing his face north of the Border, accusations Ross did not address.
Brexit and its impact on fishers in Scotland was also a key topic of the phone-in, with Ross admitting that there was now too much red tape for businesses trying to export to the continent.
He admitted that things had “worked fine” before the UK left the bloc, and said he “absolutely” takes responsibility for the problems facing the industry.
However, when asked for solutions to the problems other than cutting back on the bureaucracy introduced by his own Tory party’s Brexit deal, Ross was vague, prompting the presenter to urge him to say more than just that they are “working on it”.
Information published by the Office of National Statistics in March revealed the UK’s fish and shellfish industries suffered a massive 83% drop in January.
Ross told the BBC that his party’s manifesto should be published on April 19.