SOURCES tell me that Jackson Carlaw has been feeling the pressure this week ahead of Ruth Davidson’s much-hyped return from maternity leave.

The chatter in the Scottish Tories Whatsapp group was all about what to buy her as a welcome-back gift. As stand-in leader, Carlaw was tasked with the job. He phoned his pal in the army to try and organise a tank for Ruth to ride into Holyrood on her first day back, but his request was refused. He debated getting her flowers or chocolates – but it just didn’t seem special enough for a leader of Ruth Davidson’s stature.

In the end, he realised that sometimes the best gifts don’t cost any money at all.

So to mark her imminent return, Jackson Carlaw used his final questions at FMQs to ask about Ruth Davidson’s favourite subject: independence.

After all, Scottish independence is what helped the underwhelming politician bluff her way into the good graces of London media types and the Prime Minister’s inner-circle.

So, despite his insistence that he HATES talking about it, Carlaw took one for the team in deference to his returning boss.

He quizzed Nicola Sturgeon on why an independent Scotland would eventually move from the pound to other currency arrangements.

"Why doesn’t she want the pound anymore?’’

"Does she not care that arguing about whether it is 'legal tender' in England is one of Scotland’s favourite pastimes?

Carlaw may have forgotten the small matter of the 2014 referendum campaign, where Better Together screamed "IT’S THE UK’S POUND AND YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!" on every available news outlet.

Nevertheless, this question wasn’t about Carlaw’s views, or even the First Minister’s answer – it was all about Ruth, and there’s something quite sweet about that.

He asked: "How is dumping the pound in the best interests of Scotland?’’

"Oh, it’s very BRAVE of Jackson Carlaw to talk about currency’’ replied Nicola Sturgeon – at which point Annie Wells could be seen gulping on his behalf – "would he care to share with the chamber how much the value of the pound has dropped due to Tory policy on Brexit?’’

Of course not, Nicola, don’t be daft. Ruth Davidson prides herself on her ability to dodge questions and Carlaw will follow her example until advised otherwise, thank you very much.

Carlaw responded by suggesting that perhaps Nicola Sturgeon is asking him questions because "she is practicing for when she’s sitting here as leader of the opposition". 

At this point we saw the famous Sturgeon Bounce*, as she SPRUNG for her chair in excited anticipation.

*Note – the Sturgeon Bounce is not to be confused with the Sturgeon Boing, which is considerably more deadly and has serious implications for whichever political opponent she is BOINGING towards.

"I’d like to congratulate him on his period of acting leadership of the Conservative party’’, she said – as John Swinny began rubbing his hands together in glee – "because polls this weekend showed that under his stewardship they have gone from second to third place in Scottish politics!’’

She added sincerely: "We on these benches thoroughly endorse Jackson Carlaw’s record in office.’’

Carlaw replied that unlike others, he wouldn’t be coming to the First Minister for a reference and added: "I’ve got a sister-in-law in HR and she can help polish up that CV the First Minister has got sitting with the UN.’’

I’m sure Jackson Carlaw’s sister-in-law is an incredibly competent HR professional, but I’d swerve that kind offer if I were Sturgeon. Not least because this week the Conservative party have shown they leak more than a sailor on the cider. Her mobile number would be on Twitter before the day was out.

Carlaw finished his ode to Ruth by saying: "The best way to keep Scotland successful is to keep Scotland in the UK." "Is it, aye?" murmured Gail Ross.

Up she bounced again.

"What independence means is that we take the decisions in this parliament that are right for Scotland. That’s why we see support for independence rising and TERROR in the eyes of Jackson Carlaw and his colleagues as they see the writing is on the wall."

Poor Jackson Carlaw. Nicola Sturgeon got it wrong. That look in his eyes wasn’t terror, it was longing.

In the words of ancient philosopher Gary Barlow, he just wants Ruth back. Wants her back. Wants her back for good.

Ruth Davidson be back for next week’s FMQs. Both Jackson Carlaw and I can’t wait.