Douglas Ross hits the self-destruct button

Douglas RossImage source, Getty Images
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A few weeks ago, Douglas Ross was in his happy place - making life as difficult as possible for the SNP and the then first minister, Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yousaf badly miscalculated when he abruptly ended his party’s formal power-sharing deal with the Greens.

He assumed they’d still prop him up in government. He assumed incorrectly.

That soon became clear when Douglas Ross proposed a no confidence vote in Humza Yousaf and the Greens indicated they would not save the first minister.

The Scottish Tory leader had previously tried and failed to use this approach to oust Nicola Sturgeon. This time he claimed victory.

Political fortunes can quickly shift and that’s what’s happened to Mr Ross.

Now it is he who has hit the self-destruct button.

His miscalculation was to assume that he could abandon his pledge to leave Westminster at this election and focus on Holyrood and the 2026 campaign.

He made an 11th hour decision to become an election candidate and called it “leading from the front”. It turned out to be anything but.

In truth, it infuriated many of his Holyrood colleagues who believe their Scottish party leader must be primarily focused on the Scottish Parliament.

Some are also very unhappy by the way David Duguid (who is seriously unwell) was unceremoniously dropped as the candidate in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, making it possible for Douglas Ross to stand.

A weekend row about the Scottish Tory leader’s UK parliament travel expenses - over which he insists he has done nothing wrong - is unlikely to have strengthened his position.

If he’s successful in securing what is notionally a Conservative seat (the constituency has been newly created in a boundary review) he has said he will stand down as an MSP.

What if he is unsuccessful in the election? It is hard to see how he could credibly claim to be a committed Highland list MSP when he seems so relaxed about giving up that position.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Douglas Ross served as a Scotland office minister under Boris Johnson

Ross previously quit Holyrood for Westminster in 2017 and now appears to be gambling all on retaining a Westminster seat.

Until this election he was MP for Moray, having ousted the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson in 2017 and holding the seat in 2019.

Together with duties at Holyrood and as an accredited football linesman - he became known as “three jobs”.

In truth, Douglas Ross has always seemed more comfortable in the UK parliament where for a time he served as a Scotland office minister under Boris Johnson.

He quit the Johnson government over the prime minister’s refusal to sack the special adviser Dominic Cummings for his infamous Covid trip to Barnard Castle.

That seems like a lifetime ago.

He would later call on Boris Johnson to resign over his lack of candour about Covid parties in Downing Street.

That demand was temporarily withdrawn because of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

He was teased by political opponents about his flip-flopping over his position on Johnson, just as they will tease him now for flip-flopping over which parliament he really wants to serve in.

The mess the Scottish Tories are in is a gift to their opponents.

It is a much weaker position than he might have imagined being in ahead of BBC Scotland’s leaders’ debate on Tuesday.

He is now the very temporary leader of the party from Scotland with the second largest number of seats at Westminster.

He has also given the party he most loves to hammer - the SNP - an unexpected gift.

All this distracts attention from the SNP’s own difficulties in a campaign where they are under huge pressure from a revived Labour party.

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