Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Sketch: Douglas Ross introduces himself to the gallery, undecided voters and an empty Perth Concert Hall

Looking out at row after row of empty seats at Perth Concert Hall, it was striking to think this was one of the busier events this conference season.

Like everything else this year, coronavirus has played its hand and won, forcing the Scottish Conservatives to log-on and Zoom out to the party faithful.

New leader Douglas Ross was subjected to a Q&A from yours truly, discussing Brexit, pandemic response, leadership skills and whatever Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said this week to undermine his colleagues north of the border.

Douglas Ross speaks to Paul Malik.

With his predecessor, Jackson Carlaw, lasting little more than five months in the role, and former (former) leader Ruth Davidson taking the reins at Holyrood until her ermine is delivered, Mr Ross not only has to introduce himself to the country between now and May, but his base too.

A base he is asking to consider new, not entirely Conservative, policy ideas.

Extending free school meals, scrapping tuition fees and asking for more, not fewer, lower-waged foreign workers to be allowed into the country would not look out of place on SNP, Lib Dem or even Labour manifestos.

Mr Ross denied he is “lurching to the left”, but acknowledges for the party to have any chance at forming a government after the election, they need to appeal to people who would have once balked at the thought of putting a large X next to the Tory candidate.

Interestingly, he didn’t rule out offering the “olive branch” to fellow unionist — constitutional, if not trade — Richard Leonard, or “anyone else” for the “benefit” of the country.

Richard Leonard.

Of course, if Mr Ross and Mr Leonard do go into coalition to keep the Nats from power, then Mr Leonard would have to sack himself as party leader and remove his own whip, in keeping with the Aberdeen nine.

The farmer’s boy described himself as a “glutton for punishment”, given he is already an MP and assistant referee (linesman) and hoping to become MSP and leader of either the opposition or the government.

This will stand him in good stead, then, for the constant fires he and his party are forced to subdue week in, week out by a prime minister described by many as the biggest threat to the union.

Week’s a long time in politics…

Mr Ross said it is better not to be a clone, in any case, in a swipe at the SNP, and was happy to politic his own party and anyone else, fairly and in an appropriate manner.

A week is a long time in politics and May’s election is several dozen of them in the distance.

The polls look pretty solid for Ms Sturgeon and the SNP, but if 2020 has taught us one thing it is that everything we once knew need not apply.

If he can win his seat, convince his party to back his new-wave policies and Labour and Lib Dem unionists there is no alternative other than an unholy-alliance, then who knows what might happen.

But to channel Mr Ross’s favourite sparring partner, it is a pretty laconic “if”.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal