ABERDEEN. This week, the heart of the Scottish Torydom on Earth. The old monster has a reedy but insistent pulse these days. After decades out of use, brackish blood is pulsing through the party’s veins. The dead have become quick. Well, let’s not overstate ourselves. The dead have sat up in their coffins, dusted off the superficial grave dust and are practising walking upright.

And the necromancer behind these dark arts? Yes, she’s back too. The sole Redemptrix. The titular head of the Ruth Davidson For A Strong Opposition Party, now rebranded as the Ruth Davidson For First Minister Party. A warning to the curious: this column may contain Tories.

All the stars are there. Well, almost all the stars. Some of the stars. Boris Johnson – hair like an angora rabbit soused in ball lightning, brain and mouth function showing similar post-electrocution effects – was barred at the door, and despatched by Ruth Davidson to do an unglamorous bit of pan-handling on behalf of Aberdeen South’s Ross Thomson instead.

Here’s Theresa May, griffin-vulturing across the stage. There’s Darth Murdo. And who could forget Havers Mundell, like a bear with a sore brainstem. Mundell’s killer line was that his constituents wanted nothing to do with what he called “Nicola Sturgeon’s chocolate money’’. The Captain Peacocks and Mrs Slocombes of the Scottish Tory Party loved it, their creaking joints and bones embracing Mundell in a wave of arthritic applause.

As this weekend so ably dramatised, one of the untold stories of Davidson’s – now lengthy – stint as Scottish Tory leader is that she’s still cultivated little strength or depth in her Holyrood team. All the big write-ups went to the Westminster fly-ins – to Gove, and Javid – rather than the shadow Scottish Tory administration which she’d have us believe is poised in the wings to displace the SNP.

Contemplate the party’s Holyrood delegation, and it’s the same old Tory archetypes dusted off and delivered by central casting. There’s the Landowner, the Rotarian, the Loyalist, the Farmer and the Retired Colonel. The Private Schoolmarm, and the Incel Teen who realised everyone already thought he was a berk so decided to make his outsider status a perverse point of pride around which to build his broken personality. There’s the Grey, the Profoundly Grey and the Light-Bendingly Grey Whom Sunlight Cannot Touch Without Generating Spontaneous Fission. If this is a government-in-waiting, I’m a tipsy aardvark.

By my reckoning, it is 2739 days – or seven years, six months and one wasted morning – since Ruth Davidson became leader of the Scottish Tories. So let’s take a mosey down memory lane. Let’s do what almost nobody reporting her political career seems to do, and survey what she has actually said and done during the better part of a decade at the top of her party.

Most of you may already be out of sympathy with the Tory leader – on the constitution, on tax, on social justice, you may find nothing in common with Ruth Davidson. But when you dissect her record in public life, when you synthesise all the jarring inconsistencies which make up her mobile career? Well, if you’re looking for any kind of honest core to your political leaders, look away now.

Let’s begin at the beginning. When she replaced Annabel Goldie in 2011, she was anti-devolution Ruth, drawing lines in the sand. Having defeated Murdo Fraser with the help of her party hardliners, she transmogrified into modernising Ruth, devolutionary Ruth, pushing her party for greater Holyrood autonomy.

Then there came the EU referendum. We first encountered fiery Remainer Ruth, bane of Boris in the Wembley Arena. After the vote, this version gave way to Common Market Ruth, who believed “retaining our place in the single market should be the overriding priority” after the UK leaves the EU.

This Ruth mutated too, into a carnaptious backer of Brexit, before mysteriously flipping back again in the wake of the surprise 2017 General Election. Now she envisaged her crack company of 13 MPs would be a force fighting for an “open Brexit, rather than a closed one” at Westminster. In the event, her parliamentarians seemed to have exercised precisely no leverage over UK Government policy. When Brexit slammed shut months later, she naturally uttered not a peep.

In October 2018, Davidson threatened to resign if Theresa May’s Brexit deal “leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK, beyond what currently exists”. And what do you know? Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement proposed precisely this. But Ruth Davidson didn’t resign. Instead, she called on her party colleagues to “get behind” what she now characterised as the Prime Minister’s “practical deal”.

In July 2016, she said that “as a democrat” she believed the next prime minister “should not block” a second independence referendum, if the First Minister proposed one and Holyrood backed it. This week? Her line is: no referendum, “and this prime minister and the next prime minister should say so too”. You don’t have to support Scottish independence to find these positions difficult to reconcile.

IN domestic policy terms, the political map is torn up by her tyre tracks, and all the revolutions and reversals she’s made since elected. Her party’s 2011 manifesto proposed creating a single national police force – but since that policy was enacted, the Scottish Tories have consistently tried to depict it as a sinister and centralising Nationalist policy.

Her party’s 2016 manifesto welcomed “the Scottish Government’s recent decision to reintroduce national testing in primary schools” and argued we “should design the new standardised tests at P1, P4 and P7 according to these international standards”. This, naturally, gave way to a vocal Tory opposition to P1 testing last year.

Let’s not forget the Ruth who demanded tax cuts for the best off in Scotland’s budgets and – within weeks – was chasing UK headlines by chastising her Conservative colleagues in London for cutting income taxes for the wealthiest.

P1 testing may or may not be a good idea. Whether more devolution of power to Holyrood is desirable or not is politically contested. People will have different views on the right tack to take on income tax. But whether or not you are a devolver, a tester, a tax-cutter or a tax-and-spender, a Brexiteer or a Remainer, this is a garbled set of political propositions – not the record of a politician of real substance. It tells you everything you need to know about the calibre of political scrutiny in this country that someone with this record of bad faith and prevarication should be esteemed as one of the best and brightest these islands has to offer.

In this case, Davidson is just the mirror image of much of our political and media culture. The clarion call to “focus on bread-and-butter” policy is a familiar one. But the folk who bark most insistently about the bread and the butter tend to show little real interest in issues of public policy.

Into this doughball sensibility, Ms Davidson fits perfectly. In the absence of a policy, there’s the gag. In the gap where a reasoned argument should be, there’s a photoshoot. But beyond that? After this conference, the gruel remains terribly thin.

I don’t care that Davidson hails from the mean streets of Lundin Links. I don’t care what school she went to. I don’t care about her backstory. I don’t care, so long as she and her colleagues are straining every sinew to convince people who enjoy remarkable social and economic advantages that they’re hard done by how Scotland is taxed and administered. Applaud her to the ceiling. Lionise her in your writing. Exaggerate her chances. For me? Her empty record speaks for itself.