HERE’S something I never thought I’d say, but: personal congratulations to Jackson Carlaw.

The new leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party was confirmed yesterday, winning by 4917 votes to 1581 against his fellow Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

It had been an ill-tempered contest, with both candidates knocking lumps out of each other. Mr Carlaw was accused of running a General Election campaign which “lacked vision and ambition”, while Ms Ballantyne faced criticism for having never submitted “a single policy proposal” as a frontbencher.

In a democracy, it is hugely important to have a credible, functioning and electable opposition. With strong competition, the Government needs to be on its toes, performing well, or it faces defeat at the next election.

As the UK general election showed, the Scottish Tories were not an effective opposition, losing the election north of the border and going backwards electorally. Compared to 2017, the Tories lost seven of their 13 seats, 65,000 voters and 3.5% of the vote to 25%. It was the 17th UK general election in a row that they have lost. Their last victory in Scotland was 1955.

In comparison, the SNP won the UK general election in Scotland, gaining 13 seats to secure 48 of the country’s 59 total. The SNP attracted 265,000 more votes than in the previous election, a gain of 8.1%, to win with an impressive 45%, more than the UK figure for the Tories. It was the third UK general election in succession that the SNP had won in Scotland and just the latest electoral contest that the SNP have won since 2007.

READ MORE: SNP: Jackson Carlaw will not differ from Ruth Davidson as Tory leader

It would be unsporting to just highlight that Jackson Carlaw was the interim Tory leader who ran their losing campaign in Scotland, or that his background as a car salesman is perfect preparation for his new responsibilities selling the unsellable Tory message.

The National: Michelle Ballantyne also ran to be Scottish Tory leaderMichelle Ballantyne also ran to be Scottish Tory leader

It is, however, important to recognise that, on a personal level, he is well-liked, with one observer noting: “He is personable, excellent company in private and his decency carries into the private sphere, where he treats opponents with a level of respect not entirely replicated across the Parliament”.

Jackson Carlaw’s job now is to try to get his underwhelming and underperforming party geared up for the Scottish Parliament elections next year. Because his predecessor Ruth Davidson had largely uncritical media coverage, the Scottish Tories were never under any pressure to explain what their policies actually were. With the exception of opposing an independence referendum, they have literally

no memorable policies at all. While it’s true that in some elections simply not being the government is enough to win, that is hardly the case here.

What is the team, record and vision of the Scottish Tories? On team, Carlaw has a problem in that he and his colleagues are hardly known at all by the public, although some might argue that’s a blessing in disguise. They are simply not a credible government-in-waiting. On record; Carlaw also has a problem with UK Tory austerity and opposing Scottish democracy, which will motivate people to vote SNP. On vision; who knows? In fairness, a new leader needs to have some time to develop their thinking in office, and not just on the campaign stump.

Everyone has to hope that things will be a lot better than the recent Scottish Tory nonsense on the Queensferry Crossing. With extreme weather causing the closure of bridges from Scotland to Quebec and Sweden, Jackson Carlaw jumped on the closest passing bandwagon to attack the SNP despite having previously tweeted that he was: “Delighted to have convened the Holyrood committee which chose the design and approved the route for this Queensferry Crossing. Stunning.”

The National:

READ MORE: Old tweet exposes Jackson Carlaw's Queensferry Crossing hypocrisy

It was almost as cringeworthy an intervention as you regularly expect from a LibDem like Alex Cole-Hamilton. From bridges to hospitals and schools, safety must come first and the Scottish Government has acted responsibly which is how all reasonable and sensible politicians act.

Jackson Carlaw won’t have a long political honeymoon before he will need to publicise the team, record and vision that he will run on in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.

We have fewer than 450 days to go until the polling stations open. If the UK Government keeps on blocking the independence referendum the Scottish Government and SNP were elected to deliver, the next Holyrood campaign will be dominated by the democratic question.

Jackson Carlaw has a big question to answer: will he join Boris Johnson in opposing the right of people in Scotland to determine their own future or not? If he does, I firmly predict he will fail in 2021. He will join all his Tory predecessors going back to the 1950s as election losers in Scotland.