SCOTS Tory leadership contender Douglas Ross has denied acting as though he’s already in the post by asking Ruth Davidson to stand in for him at First Minister Questions while he continues as an MP at Westminster.

At a press conference yesterday where he was introduced by former leader Davidson as her “boss”, the pair rejected a suggestion that the double act was a “done deal”.

“It’s important for our members who will be involved in the leadership election that they know we have a plan to immediately hit the ground running,” said Ross.

“When I considered running for leader of the Scottish Conservatives I was aware, as has been the case in the past with other political parties, that not being in Holyrood for the next few months would require a vacancy that would need to be filled. And Ruth fills that and ticks every single box.”

Davidson said the reason she had called him boss was because she was a member of his campaign team but added she hoped very much to continue giving him the title as a result of him becoming leader.

Earlier Davidson, who is set to join the House of Lords after next May’s Scottish Parliament elections, maintained she wasn’t coming back as leader as she realised she would not win in a fight against Ross.

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“I am not coming back as leader of the Scottish Conservative Party,” she said. “I am very happy, proud and excited to call Douglas Ross my boss. He has asked me to do a job for him in the Scottish Parliament and I am keen and happy to do that for him.

“I cannot say I was planning to go back to tackling Nicola Sturgeon at Westminster at First Minister’s Questions each week but that is what Douglas has asked me to do if he is elected as party leader,” she said. “And, like the dozens of centre forwards that he has flagged offside down the years, I soon realised that challenging him, I was never going to win. I would rather stand at his side for the fight ahead. I believe that Douglas is going to set out something new. It’s not something I could have done. It is to set out to become Scotland’s first genuinely post-referendum political leader. Someone who isn’t defined by the battles of the past but by the future we all share in this amazing country.”

She said it was “liberating to be the warm-up act”.

“Not because I believe any less but because I know that this man stepping up can do more.”

Asked what it said about the party in Holyrood that he was the front runner – and possibly the only runner – for the leadership, Ross said he had been given support from across the party.

Davison added: “We take our talent from all parts of the party. We are all Scottish Conservatives. Yes, he sits in Westminster at the moment and will be seeking a seat in Holyrood at the elections in May – however, it is clear he wanted somebody to take on Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs who is a safe pair of hands and there is precedent for this.

‘‘The former leader of the SNP, when he came back, spent three years at Westminster with Nicola Sturgeon taking FMQs for him so it might even be a trip down memory lane for Nicola.’’

Ross resigned from the Tory Government in Westminster over Dominic Cummings’ blatant disregard of the lockdown rules and he was yesterday challenged on how his “strange relationship” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson would work.

“I don’t think it is the worst thing in the world to show you are willing, able and forthright to stand up to others who may disagree with you if you believe in something passionately,” said Ross. “I believe passionately in delivering the best for Scotland and will do everything that is needed to stand up for Scotland.”

He added that it was up to the Prime Minister who his advisers were but if he had remained in Government it would have been defending Cummings’ actions which he felt unable to do.

Ross added that he didn’t think there were “huge differences” between his views and those of the Prime Minister.

“Boris Johnson knows the importance of the union of the UK and Scotland’s strong integral role so there is no division there. But I will be outlining my positive vision for Scotland,” he said.

ASKED what his response would be if the SNP win an overall majority at Holyrood next year and say it gives them a mandate for a second independence referendum, Ross said that if people wanted to avoid another referendum, then a vote for his party was the only way.

He dismissed the view of some in his party who believe the Scottish Conservative Party can never take power at Holyrood while it remains linked to the wider UK Tory party and the actions of a Tory Government in Westminster.

“The Scottish Conservatives are part of the wider UK Conservative Party but we are also a separate entity and we have different policies in Scotland than we have at the wider UK level.

“So far in my discussions with colleagues in this leadership election no-one has suggested to me that this party should separate from the rest of the UK Conservative Party.

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“I believe the unique brand of Scottish Conservatives here in Scotland can appeal to people across the country and I think internal discussions about the future of the party about taking it from the UK party are not what we should be focussing on at the moment.”

However, a former Scots Tory spin doctor said no matter who became leader, it would just be “a different actor in the same movie, with the same ending”.

Andy Maciver pulled no punches in expressing his opinion that it won’t matter who becomes the next leader as the problem for the Scottish Tories remains the same – the wider UK Tory party.

“If they think putting someone else in charge will measurably change any of this, they haven’t been paying attention,” he said. “This is not about the leader – the problem is the party.

“The Scottish Tories need to decide what they want to achieve. Naively, perhaps, I’m of the view that the point of being the leader of the opposition is to follow it by forming a government. Does anyone seriously think a Scottish Tory leader will ever be First Minister? Scotland is the global leader in centre-right failure; in no other democracy I can think of does the party of the centre-right have no chance of ever winning.

“Whomever [sic] gets the job will be faced with the same fundamental questions. If they come up with the same answers, it’ll be a different actor in the same movie, with the same ending.”

However, Maciver denied the Scottish Tory party is run by Westminster or that Carlaw was pushed by London, arguing instead that “for Unionist parties the problem is not being run by London – they’re not”.

“The problem is being at the mercy of the performance of their UK brethren. It is indisputably the case that the floors and ceilings of the Scottish Unionist parties are at the mercy of UK party polling/performance.”

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That view is disputed by the SNP’s Michelle Thomson, who said it was naive to think London had no role in Carlaw’s surprise resignation on Thursday.

She said that while the Scottish Tories had to comply with what Westminster did, they were “doomed”.

National columnist Lesley Riddoch agreed.

“So the Scots Tories follow Scot Labour in a vain quest for the ‘right’ leader,” she said.

“But whoever succeeds Jackson Carlaw is stuck with the same fundamental problem. The constant need to look over his/her shoulder for instructions from the most unpopular UK Government in recent history.”

The problem of Westminster’s influence and actions has dogged all the unionist parties in Scotland for years, with former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont furiously condemning the London leadership for treating Scottish Labour as a “branch office”.

At the time, former Scottish Labour leader Henry McLeish said: “There has been a suffocating atmosphere of control that Westminster have been trying to put on Scotland. That’s what led Johann, I think, finally to leave. Labour in Westminster, Labour in London, has not a clue about the realities of Scottish politics.

However, he told the Sunday National yesterday that relations between the Scottish Labour party and the London leadership had now improved and the Scottish Conservatives’ issues at this moment were “completely different”.

“What I think they are heading towards is again being run by Boris Johnson from Westminster. That is the real issue. There may have been other considerations behind Jackson Carlaw stepping down but there is no doubt in my mind that there is real rancour between the Scottish Conservative Party and Westminster and that will become increasingly evident.

“I am not really surprised he stepped down as I don’t think he has done an impressive job. That said, being head of a the Scottish party in a Unionist party controlled totally by Westminster is not a good place to be. I believe the tensions and strains within the Tory party

will now spill over. What it highlights is that the Conservative Party is

pursuing a hard headed, uncompromising, undiluted Unionism that is so negative it is barely credible.

Boris Johnson finds Scotland an irritation and the Conservative Party is fragmented by the Scottish dimension.

“The First Minister and the Scottish Government have handled the pandemic reasonably well in my judgment and the danger for the two major Unionist parties is that the goodwill towards her will make life difficult for them.

“In terms of the Conservative Party this can only get worse. They are so detached now from the reality of Scotland, their problems can only increase as we move forward.

“This resignation may be a bellwether for what is ahead for the party. Whoever is the next leader will make no difference to the party because they cannot grasp that the Union has to change radically for Scotland to stay as part of it.

“The great dilemma for the Conservative Party is that they are making matters worse for themselves in Scotland and unless the Union starts to provide a serious alternative, Scots will continue to drift away from

the major Unionist parties towards independence.”