DOUGLAS Ross thinks he’s the big man: tough on nationalism, tough on the causes of nationalism. He’s the straight shootin’ Tory his party in Scotland so badly needed, here to show Sturgeon who’s boss.

It’s a very entertaining routine. And, despite all the teeth baring and gnashing over the two months since he took charge, it’s proving pretty unconvincing.

A nation sniggered in 2015 when Ed Miliband decreed hell yes he was tough enough to be the nation’s next Prime Minister. Nobody bought it, and six weeks later he was out of a job as Labour leader.

The big man routine has been part of the Tories’ shtick since 2017. They upped their numbers from one Scottish MP to 13 and briefed heavily their intention to “vote as a bloc to protect Scotland’ interests” — a promise to stand up to the worst excesses of their uncaring Westminster bosses. Like most Tory promises, it was a promise broken.

I used to get irked working in the SNP press office during this period when colleagues would talk of the “Scottish Tories”, not just the “Tories full stop”. It suggested they were something different. Less severe. More cuddly. It played into the Ruth Davidson brand, the Coke Zero, guilt-free version of Conservatism that on paper looked nice and appealing, but in practice achieved precisely nothing to take the edge off the fact we’re heading for a hard and fast drop off the Brexit cliff.

Last night the Agriculture Bill returned to the Commons. It’s part of wider legislation required to fill in the gaps where EU frameworks once existed, in this case the £3.5 billion in annual payments to our farmers. A Lords amendment had attempted to ensure that animal welfare and food safety rules are maintained beyond Brexit, and that we are not forced to lower our standards or face a flood of dodgy imports in a US trade deal. Legitimate fears about hormone fattened beef, chlorinated chicken and poor hygiene standards have been well aired — there are good reasons these products are illegal across most of Europe. It is hard to overstate the severe consequences for Scottish farmers, consumers and the global reputation of Scotland the brand.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross has ditched 'no to indyref2', but his new mantra is just as ineffective

Douglas Ross voted against his government, and for the safeguarding amendment. Now that’s all very well and good, but it’s worth reflecting what lies behind his decision to play the unlikely rebel and more to be said about why he failed to do anything to convince those MP colleagues he claims to lead to do likewise.

Ross, again with some degree of credit to him, chucked his ministerial post in May after the Dominic Cummings affair. It cost him Whitehall status, but incurred no financial loss — as an unpaid minister his own party had already judged him worthless.

It’s all part of a carefully crafted routine to show that hell yes he’s tough enough to stand up to the Westminster Tories and do things differently, but already the cracks are appearing in that edifice.

And, frankly, macho posturing isn’t worth a damn if you aspire to lead and can’t bring your footsoldiers with you.

Disgruntlement abounds in Holyrood group too who, ‘neb oot o joint’ at Ross’s highhanded edicts about the Hate Crime Bill, leaked them to the media and undermined him.

The UK Conservatives are on an ideological warpath which will harm Scotland’s interests. That’s why support for independence edges up by the day. Squaring the circle as a Scottish leader of the party responsible for doing that is a tricky act for sure. But it’s not convincing enough to play the tough-guy-freewheeling-rebel.

Douglas Ross is already looking puzzlingly isolated after two months in the job. It usually takes years to look so precarious. Knowing the Tories propensity for deposing ailing leaders, and watching Ross act the big man so unconvincingly he’d best watch that he’s not laughed out before he’s pushed.