WHO are we as a country? It’s profoundly disturbing that Douglas Ross, when he was a Tory local councillor in Moray and even when he was a member of the Scottish Parliament, seemed to feel that demonising an ethnic minority was an electorally profitable strategy.

However, he’s had second thoughts about that since becoming party leader and the new Panelbase poll commissioned by my blog Scot Goes Pop suggests he’s right to be worried about the consequences of his past history of derogatory remarks about “gypsy travellers”. Even before don’t knows are excluded, an absolute majority of respondents say that someone with his track record is not an appropriate person to be leader of a major party, or a candidate for first minister.

It appears that Ross has seen his reputation take a particularly damaging knock among women. After undecideds are stripped out, 74% of female respondents say that he is not fit to hold high office. The equivalent figure among men is 56%.

Inevitably, the most damning results are reported in groups that you would not expect to have been fans of Ross in the first place – for example, SNP and Yes voters.

However, of huge concern to him will be the finding that almost one-fifth of people who voted Tory in the 2019 General Election think his past comments are repugnant enough to disqualify him from his job. More than one-third of No voters from the 2014 referendum see things the same way and that rises to almost one-half once undecideds are removed.

READ MORE: Poll finds Douglas Ross ‘not fit to be leader’ after traveller remark

From a purely strategic point of view, this result suggests the pro-independence camp would be far better off if the Tories succeed in resisting the Labour challenge in the current election and remain the biggest opposition party. That would mean Ross inevitably becoming one of the leading faces for the No campaign in any second independence referendum – and he appears to be thoroughly toxic.

Voters are also deeply troubled by his apparent lack of commitment to his day job. As things stand, his plan is to juggle no fewer than four jobs after May – as Tory leader, as a list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, as the Westminster MP for Moray and as an assistant football referee.

By a huge margin, respondents in the poll feel that he should relinquish one or more of his surplus jobs – ie, as MP and referee. Intriguingly, on this question the gender gap is reversed, with men feeling more strongly than women that Ross is spreading himself too thin. That isn’t even a particularly partisan point because after the exclusion of undecideds almost half of Tory voters think that four jobs is too many.

Probably the biggest point of weakness for Ross in the current campaign is his comically contradictory claims that the election is an “opportunity to stop an independence referendum” and that if people vote for pro-independence parties, a referendum will not be allowed anyway.

Respondents in the poll feel that message simply won’t wash – once don’t knows are removed, 54% say the Conservatives’ campaign pitch means that Ross and his colleagues must logically accept that a pro-independence majority at Holyrood will indicate that the public have decided that a referendum should take place.

There is a predictably stark division between Yes voters and No voters on this question but one-fifth of No voters do accept the democratic argument that “opportunities” at an election cannot flow in one direction only. Thirty per cent of Labour voters take the same view, although that may partly reflect the fact that the Labour vote is not monolithically Unionist.