Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross showing signs he could be new Ruth Davidson – Scotsman comment

Douglas Ross came to national attention as a political figure – for some people at least – in a way that was hardly ideal, with something of a stooshie over his decision to officiate at a Champions League match in Barcelona’s famous Camp Nou stadium, in his other job as an assistant referee, rather than take part in a Commons vote on universal credit.

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Boris Johnson with Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross who resigned from the Government over Dominic Cummings' alleged breach of lockdown rules (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Boris Johnson with Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross who resigned from the Government over Dominic Cummings' alleged breach of lockdown rules (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

However, the man who now wears the shoes once occupied by Ruth Davidson as Scottish Conservative party leader has since shown signs that he is prepared to make waves in a different way.

The news that Ross has decided his party is now in favour of free student tuition fees – a flagship SNP policy – is quite a change from the opposition of the past, which he explained by saying that young people’s lives had been disrupted by the Covid pandemic and “we cannot burden them any further”.

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The SNP were dismissive with one MSP saying “the Tory leopard is claiming to have changed its spots. No-one will believe a word of it”.

She might be right but, beyond arguments about the merits of free tuition and whether Ross really means it, it does send a message to voters that the Scottish Tories are a different proposition to those south of the Border. This was an idea Ross also emphasised in his attack on those southern colleagues who had forgotten the importance of the Union, including “some of those governing our country”.

While Boris Johnson said he thought Ross had not been talking about him but rather “those who don't value the Union in the way that I do”, plenty of people will think the Prime Minister was among those in Ross’s firing line. And, of course, his resignation from Johnson’s Government over Dominic Cummings’ failure to quit for his lockdown excursions was an early shot across the bows by the MP for Moray.

This style of politics – a willingness to stand up to London and stand for a brand of distinctly Scottish right-of-centre values and beliefs – is reminiscent of Davidson’s leadership. However, it remains to be seen whether he has her charisma and also whether Brexit has so fundamentally altered Scotland’s political dynamics that voters are significantly less enamoured by such an approach.

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