DOUGLAS Ross kicked off his first afternoon at the top of the Scottish Tories yesterday by candidly admitting that he’s going to lead the party to defeat at next year’s election.

The MP for Moray – who was unopposed in his bid to replace Jackson Carlaw as leader of the party – promised to provide a “strong, united opposition” after May’s Holyrood vote.

The SNP called it a “gaffe royale”.

Ross is set to lead the Scottish Tories from the backbenches in Westminster, and aims to win a seat in Holyrood next May. He also plans to stay on as an MP until the next General Election, and will also keep up his occasionally lucrative sideline as an assistant referee.

Until the new Tory leader returns to Holyrood, Ruth Davidson will stand in for him at First Minister’s Questions.

She plans on standing down at the next election, before heading off to the House of Lords.

In an interview soon after his new role was confirmed, Ross said: “My 100% commitment is representing the people of Scotland and I can do that effectively, both in Westminster as an MP, and with a strong team at Holyrood, that after the next election when I hope to be returned to Holyrood I hope to lead a strong, united Conservative Party which will provide that scrutiny and opposition to the SNP that we need in Scotland.”

The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard said: “This is a gaffe royale, even by Douglas Ross’s standards. He has conceded defeat before the election has even been called yet. If that is the state of the new opposition, bring it on.”

WATCH: Douglas Ross concedes defeat to SNP on first day as Scottish Tory leader

Ross was briefly an MSP, winning a seat in 2016, before beating the then SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson for the Moray constituency at the snap General Election in 2017.

He held on to the seat in 2019, and found himself promoted to the Scotland Office.

However, he resigned his position as a junior minister in the aftermath of government adviser Dominic Cummings’s efforts to defend a trip to Barnard Castle during lockdown.

The Prime Minister’s right-hand man had claimed he was testing his eyes.

Ross is the fifth Scottish Tory leader since 1999, and the third since 2019.

Welcoming him to the role,

Boris Johnson tweeted: “I look forward to working with Douglas to promote Scotland’s place in our United Kingdom.”

The SNP’s Keith Brown said Ross would be “a puppet for Downing Street”.

He added: “Whatever else we’ve learned in this whole grubby coup, and whatever their bluster, senior Tories are now effectively conceding publicly what they have been saying privately for some time – they know there is going to be an independence referendum. Otherwise why bother changing leaders?”

Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie said it was clear Johnson thought the Tories in Holyrood were useless as he’d “overlooked the lot of them to appoint a backbench MP as leader”. He said it was symbolic of the PM’s “contempt”.