FOR the second time inside a generation, the Scots Tories look as though they are faced with a wipe-out at a General Election, the one which seems bound to follow before long.

That is what the latest opinion poll shows, and it takes its place in the line of several disasters awaiting Boris Johnson’s government.

By any standards, he has got off to a catastrophic start. The trap laid for Labour, expected to force Jeremy Corbyn into supporting a dissolution of Parliament before the current Brexit day of October 31, has instead snapped shut on the Conservatives to leave them maimed, bloody and howling just when they had hoped to be springing forward into full campaign mode.

And that is just England. In Scotland, the campaign was already crippled after the Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, decided to stand down and spend more time with her baby. I don’t quite swallow the story that she had by herself revived her party from its long coma after 1997, because I think the SNP unwittingly helped by making strategic mistakes too. All the same, having an energetic woman in charge of the Scots Tories certainly made a difference to them, but now she is gone.

At Holyrood, they are otherwise a sorry lot. Davidson could never count as an intellectual, yet before she appointed the Highland MSP, Donald Cameron, to do her thinking for her, her party had no policy-making apparatus of any kind. Policy had been whatever popped into the leader’s head – since nothing did, that was that.

Davidson’s predecessors, David McLetchie or Annabel Goldie, showed no taste for policy, especially if it might be construed as distinctive Scottish policy. Otherwise, they would have needed to explain what they were doing both to the voters in Scotland and to their bosses in London. They never felt equal to that: indeed they were unequal to that. The gap was filled by continuing visceral opposition to the very idea of devolution.

Even today there are, sitting in the chamber at Holyrood, Tory MSPs who would, if they could, abolish the Scottish Parliament. But they do not dare to say so, which again means they say nothing.

The dozen extra MPs returned to Westminster in 2017 are little different. If few of them favour Johnson’s hard Brexit, the others have not the guts to declare openly what they do want. Not a single one showed the honesty and courage of Kenneth Clarke, Philip Hammond or Sir Nicholas Soames in voting against a harmful and disorderly No Deal. The most independent-minded of the Scots, Paul Masterton of East Renfrewshire, crumpled when Johnson buttonholed him. Do not even ask about the rest. So we have what London wants, a totally subservient Scottish Tory party.

I doubt if it is what Scotland wants. Yet this is the party that before long will canvass Scotland’s voters. No wonder annihilation looms.

It is not, after all, as if Scotland lacks the building blocks for an effective conservative political movement, though there seems no chance of one emerging this side of national independence. From the SNP’s peak of popularity in 2010, with strong representation right round the country, there was a lurch to the left once Nicola Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond as First Minister. The interests of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, at least as interpreted by the left, came to the fore. The effects struck home at the UK election of 2017, when the SNP lost all its seats in the north-east, with other setbacks at the northern and southern extremities of the country and in Edinburgh.

It remains a matter of amazement to me that this reverse seems to have prompted not a single second thought on the part of the leftward-lurching Scottish government, while it blunders on as if nothing had happened. Its economic policy most closely resembles that of Labour’s Michael Foot in the 1980s, with nationalisation as a favoured means of saving jobs and progressive taxation as the route to equality.

Even in the face of obvious failures in the schools and in the health service, government is reckoned to be in principle omnipotent and public intervention to be, without exception, the answer to every problem. Yet none of this actually works.

The shortcomings appear if anything to intensify one narrative in our political discourse,

somewhat overrepresented among The National’s columnists, that the Scots are a people of barely controlled revolutionary fervour only awaiting the moment to overthrow capitalism and set up a socialist earthly paradise.

The immediate steps to be taken may seem a bit vague, as do the precise lineaments of the future state of affairs. There is no model to follow, of course, since all attempts at socialism in the rest of the world have failed. Even the merely municipal achievements of socialism in Glasgow and the West also leave something to be desired. Perhaps that is why voters in other regions show such reluctance to commit themselves to it.

The fact remains that Scotland, despite all the populist pizzazz is, in fact, quite a douce, conservative wee country, not given to disruptive change and suspicious of novelty. For every Clydebank or Kilmarnock, there is a Kelso or a Cromarty. Out of some durable sense of proletarian loyalty, many more Scots define themselves as working-class than are actually working-class, and in fact the fastest growing sector of employment is the arts and entertainment – not indeed always toffs, but not horny-handed sons (or daughters) of toil either.

Scotswomen are in general more conservative than Scotsmen. Uppermost in women’s minds are their homes and families, while men are readier for political adventure. This is no doubt why two-thirds of SNP voters are men and only one-third women.

I could go on, but altogether there is enough evidence that large parts of the Scottish electorate are likely to remain cold towards an SNP lurching to the left. Brexit may offer an opportunity to push, at indyref2, the number of Yes voters over the 50% line. But that may depend on indyref2 actually occurring before the Brexit crisis has fully played itself out, and the conjunction is not guaranteed. In that case, post-Brexit, we still face the problem of extending support for independence beyond its present social constraints, whether of class or region or other relevant demographics.

In the end, it is highly desirable that national independence should be the result of a national movement embracing, if in different degrees, all these demographics.

There will still be some diehard Unionists, but for a much broader part of the electorate the choice will be a matter of material calculation – as is normal and acceptable in our democratic system.

That’s why I don’t think a redistribution of wealth and income is likely to be the basis of a successful Yes campaign next time around. As for the notion that a future politically correct Scotland should renounce economic growth and settle for virtuous poverty, it can only drive the people back to Unionism and so, heaven help us, to the Tories.