Douglas Ross put Nicola Sturgeon on notice as he vowed to wage an “unrelenting” war on the SNP over the next eight months.
The outspoken Scottish Tory leader, who succeeded Jackson Carlaw in the top job earlier this month, vowed to “change the narrative” in Scottish politics and end the “division and arguments” around the constitution.
He also promised not to shy away from “standing up” to Number 10 in the pursuit of his vision for Scotland.
“I’ll be unrelenting,” he said.
“I’m on the side of the vast majority of people in Scotland, less than one in five think the SNP’s obsession with independence should be the priority.
“People want the narrative to be about improving education and getting a better health service and getting the jobs and the economy going.”
He added: “It suits Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP to focus on division and arguments with Westminster, what you’ll get from me is someone holding the SNP to account, someone challenging Nicola Sturgeon and her government on the many failures that they’ve made over the last 13 years, while continuing to outline a positive alternative.”
Mr Ross, who raised eyebrows last week after suggesting education secretary Gavin Williamson should “reflect” on his position after the exam fiasco, told us he would operate without fear or favour from Number 10.
“Number 10 understand that I am the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and I will say things that sometimes they disagree with and other times they agree with.
“I’ve said all along, I think people in Scotland expect their two governments to work together, and I’ll work with the UK Government when I think that’s right, but I won’t be afraid to stand up to them.”
Mr Ross, who will be standing in the Highlands and Islands region at next year’s Holyrood election, said Boris Johnson is “fully aware” of how he wants to take the Scottish party forward.
“He (Mr Johnson) wants to work with me, but in no way will my judgement or decisions be in any way affected, wondering or worrying what Number 10 think.”
The Moray MP urged anyone who backed the union to back the Scottish Tories in 2021, he said “only the Scottish Conservatives can win”.
The father-of-one was unfazed by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in an election year and backed the prime minister to bring home an agreement.
“It was to be expected that in this stage of the negotiations, both sides are saying we can’t see a way through,” he said.
“Any time the prime minister has been told he will fail against EU negotiators, he has succeeded.”
Asked if he would stay on as leader if the vote swung away from the Tories and he failed to make it into the Scottish Parliament, Mr Ross was quick to respond “yes, absolutely”.