Douglas Ross says Boris Johnson has a “crucial role” to play as prime minister, weeks after calling for his resignation.
The Scottish Conservative leader reflected on the awkward rift with his UK party boss as he started campaigning for the local council election in May.
Mr Ross knows his opponents will be highlighting the division caused by the row over parties at Downing Street in lockdown.
But he hopes voters will view the Scottish Conservatives differently after attempts to put clear blue water between them and London HQ.
While the so-called partygate scandal still hangs over the party, Mr Ross said the prime minister is “showing leadership” in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ross: We have taken a different approach
When asked if the various scandals south of the border will have an impact on the way people vote at the polls in Scotland, Mr Ross said: “Of course it will have an impact and other parties will mention it.
“But from what I am picking up on the doorsteps is they understand we have taken a different approach here in Scotland.
“The councils run by the Conservatives are some of the best in Scotland and across the UK.
“Aberdeen City Council is a Conservative-run council that got the UK local government award for the best council anywhere in the UK.
“Our candidates and the councillors elected in May are the ones that will fight hard for local services and stand up for local communities and crucially stop the SNP using this election to campaign for another independence referendum.”
Johnson has ‘crucial role to play’
Asked if he now accepts Mr Johnson is staying put after weeks of calls for his resignation, Mr Ross said: “I have made my position clear, but we must understand the prime minister rightly has a crucial role to play at the moment with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“He has shown leadership and introduced the toughest sanctions anywhere in the world.
“He is dealing with the horrendous situation in Ukraine and is standing up to Vladimir Putin and the Russian forces who want to exert the kind of pressure I never thought I would see in my lifetime.”
The Scottish Conservative leader also downplayed opposition accusations of “dirty Russian money”.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, opposition politicians have accused the Conservatives of accepting millions of pounds in donations from Russian individuals.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, estimated it could be as much as £2.3 million since the Conservatives came into office.
Mr Ross said: “All the donations, as far as I am aware, have been received from people on the electoral register, but it is something we should look at.
“But it is important we don’t just label all Russians in the same way.
“This war was started by Vladimir Putin and his forces and there are so many people in Russia who are willing to stand up and condemn what Putin is doing.”