DOUGLAS Ross is targeting the support of the “silent majority” in the 2026 Holyrood election.

The Scottish Tory leader was ­addressing delegates on the final day of the party’s conference in Aberdeen – after a Savanta ComRes poll put the Tories in third place behind Scottish Labour.

He said that second place is “not good enough” and urged the party to “take back Scotland”.

The comments were made just one day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed Ross for ­“defying the sceptics” by “stopping Nicola Sturgeon from getting an overall majority”.

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The Scottish Tory MSP, MP and part-time referee said: “There are so many people who are looking for ­anyone who can step up and beat them, who can remove this SNP ­government, who can kick Nicola Sturgeon out of Bute House.

“Because coming second place, being the largest opposition, is not enough. At the end of the day, the ­nationalists are still in power.”

Ross claimed Scotland is stuck “in a bind” of voting for the SNP but not supporting indyref2.

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He continued: “We cannot allow this to continue forever. We need to take back Scotland from the SNP, and we know there is a majority out there to take us forward.

“The same silent majority that said No to Nicola Sturgeon in 2014. Our goal must be to bring that majority together again to break this deadlock.”

The Tory leader, who skipped First Minister’s Questions this week citing a throat illness, said the silent ­majority must “rediscover its voice, just like I’ve done today”.

The Moray MP admitted there is a “mountain to climb” to remove the SNP from power, adding: “We need to be bold and ambitious now.

“Not just because of the local ­elections in May, at which I want to see as many Scottish Conservative councillors elected as possible.

“But also because Scotland does not want to only hear about a strong opposition anymore.”

Speaking to journalists after the speech, Ross said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is “rattled”, adding she “doesn’t seem to be enjoying the job”.

After his speech, speaking about the local elections, Ross hit out at Scottish Labour, claiming it would always prefer to form a “left-wing ­alliance over a Unionist pact”.

Earlier in the day, the Scottish Tory leader refused to back Johnson to lead the party into the next General Election, despite U-turning on calls for the Prime Minister to step down.

Ross further said that Johnson would not be campaigning for the Scottish Tories during the upcoming local elections.

Asked about Johnson leading the Tories in the next election by The ­Telegraph, Ross said: “I’m fully ­focused on the international crisis and the war in Ukraine, not some ­future General Election years down the line.

“Previous reservations I had are the last thing on my mind when I see ­Russia bombing children’s wards.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack used his conference speech yesterday to say that it is “fortunate” oil and gas is reserved to the UK Government.

He claimed that this was because the Tories can approve further ­drilling in Scottish waters without the ­Scottish Government’s approval.

Jack said the case for drilling in the North Sea had been strong ­before the invasion of Ukraine, but that Vladimir Putin’s aggression had now made it “unanswerable”.

He said that opposition at ­Holyrood to further drilling was the “price of Nicola Sturgeon going into power with the Greens”.

In a confused speech, Jack ­alternated between criticising the Edinburgh government for refusing to work with its London ­counterpart, and praising it for maintaining a strong working relationship.

He said it was hard to work with the Scottish Government as ­ministers in Edinburgh “demand a freshly brewed grievance every morning”.

“The people of Scotland rightly ­expect their two governments to work together,” Jack added.

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Jack also addressed the Union ­Connectivity Review, saying that there were key projects, such as the ­upgrading of the A1 and A75, for which ­people in Scotland would be thankful to have direct UK ­Government funding.

However, he also appeared to ­accept the criticism levelled at the review by SNP figures including the First Minister, who labelled it a ­“power grab, taking decisions around priorities away from Scottish ministers, with a suggestion of funding improvements”.

Jack told conference: “What does Scotland need more, another SNP ‘power grab’ moan, or proper trunk roads?”

The Scottish Secretary misspoke in one moment in his speech while addressing the crisis in Ukraine. Jack mistakenly claimed that the UK was “one of the biggest aid donors to Russia”, before swiftly correcting himself.

At a separate event on the conference stage, Tory MP David Duguid criticised the Scottish Government for donating £4 million to Ukraine on the grounds that the UK had already donated cash.

Coinciding with the conference, the Scottish Tories published a policy paper setting out their concerns around the Scottish Government’s planned National Care Service.

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It detailed proposals for a Local Care Service, with health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane saying he was “terrified” of the prospect of a centralised National Care Service.

At the heart of the Tories’ plans is a “local care guarantee” that no one would be offered care far away from their home – warning of more “out-of-area” care otherwise.

Gulhane (above) said: “I’m terrified of the bad delivery of this government, who doesn’t trust anyone.

“They’re anti-business, they’re anti-organisations. They’re all about ­power and control and ­centralisation.”

READ MORE: Scottish Tory conference: What it was REALLY like at the event in Aberdeen

The paper accepted that the status quo on social care cannot continue and said the extra money raised by the Health and Social Care Levy was an opportunity to change the system.

It also recommends giving the Care Inspectorate more powers.

Social care minister Kevin ­Stewart said: “We are committed to the ­establishment of a National Care Service, with human rights embedded throughout and will continue to engage with the real experts – people with lived experience of the service – to improve future services and make things better for everyone.”