DOUGLAS Ross. Is there anything new to say?

Of course, the MP for Moray has been elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives unopposed. Whoop, whoop. But that was on the cards seconds after (or perhaps weeks before) Jackson Carlaw decided to walk the plank. Douglas – och let’s call him Doug – intends to take on the SNP, concentrate on domestic policy not independence (the surest sign that Scottish opinion is moving towards Yes) and play tag-team with Her Worshipfulness the Right Honourable Member for Whichever Obscure Place In a Down To Earth Homeland That Abhors Such Unelected Privilege Gets Her a Westminster Portfolio.

It’s pretty obvious who’ll be calling the shots, mind. Ruth will get two bites at the publicity cherry. Once at First Ministers’ Questions when Holyrood reconvenes next week – and again on those inevitable trips to London for ermine-robe-fitting sessions or whatever. Meanwhile poor old Doug will be out in the cold, waiting for an occasional speaking opportunity when Westminster lurches back into life in September. In all honesty though, he’s more likely to hit the headlines as a referee than new Scottish Tory leader.

Unless he manages more newsworthy gaffes like yesterday’s promise to lead a “strong” Tory party after the Holyrood elections in May and provide “scrutiny and opposition” to the SNP.

Welcome to the rest of your life as leader, Doug, facing Nicola Sturgeon from the opposition benches.

But this much we already knew.

Doug faces a helluva task, not just because serious Covid flare-ups can so easily knock him out of the headlines (as they did yesterday), but also because droves of Tory commentators are writing in newspapers to tell us so.

Adam Tomkins MSP says Doug must make the UK look and feel like a safe haven. Good luck with that. Former Tory adviser Andy McIver says the Scottish Conservatives’ problem isn’t the absence of quality leaders (ok, we could disagree), but the fact “their fortunes in Scotland always have been, and always will be, tied to Westminster”. Meanwhile former Brexit Party MP Brian Monteith thinks the problem with the tag team will be Ruth Davidson’s high profile as an anti-Boris and anti-Brexit politician. What Scotland apparently needs is a “real” Conservative.

Jings. With friends like these…..

But then we always knew that behind their apparently united and calm façade, Tories are panicking big style about the steady drift of Scots towards independence.

So, a few actual policies might not go amiss.

Mercifully no clampdown on “Gypsy travellers” is planned. But there will be an economy plan delivered within a month and – in a move that should warm the heart of a local democracy enthusiast like myself – there will be “devolution out of Holyrood”.

Now why am I not cheering?

It’s because I hear a little bell ringing.

When it comes to half-hearted, tokenistic pledges about local democracy from a Scottish opposition leader, I realise we’ve all been here before.

We’ve also heard the same wild boasts for one man’s personal charm and ability to single-handedly turn a stricken political ship around.

And we’ve witnessed pride coming before a mighty fall.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross to continue refereeing career with Rangers v St Mirren match

Yes, when Douglas Ross speaks, I see a bullish, pucker Scottish Tory – but I actually hear Jim Murphy.

Titter ye not.

OK, I’ll grant you, the two men are hardly look or sound-alikes. But their leadership spin is almost identical.

Cast your mind back to December 2014 when the Labour MP for Eastwood took over from Johann Lamont.

Jim Murphy presented himself as the fresh, active face of a sluggish party combining relative youth (he’d been Scotland’s youngest MP when he entered the Commons in 1997) with some experience of government (he’d held several ministerial offices under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown).

Compare and contrast Douglas Ross, now 37, who’s had a shorter time at just one ministerial tiller – he was parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland for six months until he resigned over the Dominic Cummings affair.

But that’s not the only parallel between the two men.

Jim Murphy – like Douglas Ross – was marooned at Westminster when he became Scottish Labour leader and also promised to get into Holyrood by 2016.

What happened?

A mere six months later – a period we could call a Carlaw – Murphy was no closer to Holyrood but a lot closer to the dole, having lost his seat in the 2015 General Election when the SNP romped home with 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.

As BBC Scotland correspondent Andrew Kerr observed at the time: “Murphy certainly brought energy and dynamism to the election campaign – but all that achieved was Ian Murray in Edinburgh South.”

Big talk, small results.

Spot the parallel?

Clearly, Doug also needs to make the troublesome leap from Westminster to Holyrood, and promises he’ll get there in May, but has adverse opinion polls to deal with and currently no Holyrood seat. If he finds one, stands down as an MP but fails to get into Holyrood, and thus gets stuck betwixt and between like Jim Murphy, he too could be electoral toast. Of course, Doug will probably stand on the list section of the Holyrood vote – y’know the bit opposed by Scottish Conservatives at the parliament’s inception because it uses proportional representation. Until it became clear list seats was all they’d get. Little monkeys.

Imagine the embarrassment then, if the all-conquering Doug can only limp back into Holyrood on the same Highlands and Islands list seat he held for a year before jumping ship (as he does so often) for pastures more profitable further south. Of course, winning on the list would be better than failing to re-enter Holyrood entirely as constituencies (probably) fall to the SNP. But it would be a disappointment all the same.

So much, so familiar.

But, there is some actual good news here. Doug apparently intends to grasp the thistle, and advocate MORE tiers of smaller, truly local councils so our massive councils of 170 thousand people are whittled down to (whisper it) the EU average of 10 thousand folk. Surely that’s what he means by saying powers “concentrated in the Scottish Parliament should be devolved to regions, cities and towns”.

Well, mebbes aye, mebbes naw.

In December 2014, Jim Murphy also called for “devo max within Scotland”, promising that as First Minister the work programme and powers over welfare would be devolved to local communities. Wow.

But when you read the detail – and there was little enough of that – you found powers would go to “councillors, charities and local organisations working together”. Unelected talking shops. What a letdown.

But Jim was only doing then, what Doug is doing now. Fluffing up a thin Unionist prospectus. Trying to tap into public dislike for remote, central government without intending to change anything. Expecting that wide-eyed rural Scots will be mightily impressed with re-hashed city deals and Freeports. Hell, maybe Elgin, Ullapool, St Andrews and Stranraer will get full-time elected Provost-Mayors.

Doug, dinnae insult our collective intelligence.

You’ve no more intention than Jim Murphy of restoring genuine grassroots democracy – and no better chance of persuading voters that Scotland’s future is your top priority.

Still, all the best.