IN the countdown to the first Tory leadership hustings to be held north of the Border, the contenders appeared to be attempting to woo party members by vying to outdo each other on Unionist promises.

One day, Rishi Sunak was promising to bring back the Union Unit, the next, Liz Truss was declaring she would be the new minister for the Union.

Both have been not only dismissive of a second referendum but of devolved institutions and politicians.

Sunak suggested he was “proud” to bypass Holyrood to deliver infrastructure projects in Scotland, while Truss sparked a huge backlash when she declared Nicola Sturgeon should be “ignored”.

The two Tories battling it out to be leader have also promised greater scrutiny of the Scottish Government, with Truss vowing to extend parliamentary privilege to MSPs to allow them “more robust questioning” of ministers.

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Sunak promised Scottish civil servants would face greater scrutiny from Westminster, while UK ministers will be required to be “more visible” north of the Border.

So against that backdrop, what more did the leadership hustings actually tell us about the next Prime Minister who will be taking the keys to Downing Street in less than three weeks’ time?

There was little new in much of the messaging, with the familiar refrains of ruling out another “divisive” referendum, pledges to protect the Union and help the economy.

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There were stumbling blocks along the way – multi-millionaire Sunak swiftly deflected a question on whether he would be willing to live in a socially rented flat on minimum wage to experience the cost of living crisis onto one of his favourite topics – Covid assistance schemes.

Meanwhile, Truss once again was keen to claim the title of being a “child of the Union”, after spending some time in school in Paisley, and to emphasise how she will keep the “family of the UK” together.

Both firmly dodged the question of under what circumstances they would actually allow another referendum to take place.

How long that position can be held remains to be seen – particularly if the Supreme Court rules Holyrood has the power to hold another vote.

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Sunak and Truss are very much playing to a distinct – and small – electorate at the moment.

That offers some explanation of why they are trying to “out-Union” each other in a bid to win the support of party members.

But it also gives an insight into what the winning candidate’s approach will be to Scotland once they are in Number 10.

Outside Perth Concert Hall, there was a large protest with numerous anti-Tory slogans. Inside, there was applause and cheering for the candidates from the Tory members.

The only poll carried out so far – ahead of the hustings – found a quarter of Scots would be more likely to support independence, regardless of who becomes the next party leader.

And the survey also suggested there won’t be much change for the Tories’ electoral fortunes in Scotland, whoever the next prime minister is.

The hustings in Perth may have persuaded some Tory party members to vote for one candidate or the other.

But for whoever wins the keys to Downing Street, their insistence of stamping Unionism on everything could help to sway those who until now have been undecided about the arguments for Scotland leaving the Union.