IF Douglas Ross is the answer to the Tory meltdown, then they’re in an even worse position than they imagine.

The Moray MP is apparently frontrunner to take over as Scottish Conservative leader after the surprise resignation of Jackson Carlaw. Long gone are the days when Scottish Tories confidently claimed they would win the next Scottish Parliament election. Having looked into their current polling abyss, the writing was on the wall for Carlaw.

I have known Douglas Ross for a long time, first coming across him at the 2001 Westminster General Election campaign in Moray when he was a precocious Liberal Democrat activist.

Not long afterwards, he resigned to join the Tories and was elected as a councillor, before resigning from the Conservative-led Moray Council administration, something he went on to do twice. Curiously, he was allowed to remain in the party despite sitting in opposition to it, and he even continued to work at the same time as a Scottish Parliament Tory staffer.

READ MORE: Kirsty Strickland: The men in suits came for Jackson Carlaw

Normally political parties treat members who oppose their whip as having resigned, but not in the case of Douglas Ross. He went on to run for both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, where he lost twice to me before being successful in 2017 and resigning as an MSP.

Most memorable at Westminster for shamefully suggesting his top priority was “to see tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers”, he was appointed as a Scotland Office Minister in December 2019. It took all of 161 days for him to resign anew because of the Dominic Cummings scandal. Ross received plaudits for taking a stand, unlike Jackson Carlaw who had to be dragged into making critical statements.

However, the motivation for Douglas Ross was more to do with the future of Douglas Ross. His majority from the 2019 election is little more than 500 votes.

When he starts getting political heat while restricted by collective responsibility, his instinct is to resign and claim the moral high ground. Tory high command know this, but are choosing to overlook it because they have so few options. They are desperate. So desperate they are even claiming he is well liked when this is also untrue. It wasn’t true among his Moray Council colleagues, among Scottish Parliament colleagues and even at Westminster.

Not long after the 2017 General Election, when I still lived on Speyside, I was invited to lunch by an English Tory MP who was in the area on a family fishing holiday. We had got to know each other over the years at Westminster and he was great and gracious company. Also among the lunching party was a newly elected Scottish Tory MP, whose blushes I will spare by not naming them.

READ MORE: 'We’ve crossed swords politically': FM reacts to Jackson Carlaw quitting

Without divulging the exact details of the conversation, there was no doubt about their general consensus on “The referee”, as they mockingly dubbed Ross. While having a successful career as a football linesman, his fellow Tories were scathing about him as a political colleague.

Scroll forward three years and things are so dire for the Scottish Tories that Ross is the only apparent option they have left. Jackson Carlaw, who became stand-in leader after the resignation of Ruth Davidson, is meanwhile to be replaced as stand-in Holyrood leader by Ruth Davidson, until the Scottish Parliament election and she takes up a seat in the House of Lords.

Given their diminished performance, the Tories will be unconfident of winning Moray from the SNP, so Ross will likely be parachuted in on the Highlands and Islands regional list. Media scrutiny of his lack of policy depth, his voting record at Westminster and preference for refereeing over constituency engagements will now reach a new level.

Gone are the days that Ross could evade serious media scrutiny about his double jobbing, which has seen him miss scores of important constituency, council and parliamentary debates, evidence sessions and votes. No doubt he will finally have to concentrate on the job he was elected to do.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross: Who is the Tory MP rumoured to replace Jackson Carlaw?

In the bigger picture, however, it does not change a thing for the Scottish Tories. Their poll numbers are down and they are losing talented senior staffers and parliamentarians. MSP Adam Tomkins, who is among those resigning, said this week that: “For the first time in Scottish history independence now looks like it might not be the minority pursuit that it’s always been, but the position of a majority of Scots.”

While the weakness of the Scottish Tories (and for that matter Labour) is bad for parliamentary democracy as they are both ineffective as an opposition, it is great news for the SNP and independence cause.

I am delighted with the prospect of Douglas Ross as the next in a long line of failing Scottish Tory leaders, as I am with Richard Leonard remaining as the invisible Scottish Labour leader.