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Analysis: Douglas Ross centre stage as Jack-kept-in-the-box

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.

Anyone tuning into the virtual Tory conference this year would have been hard-pressed to miss Douglas Ross.

Panel discussions, cosy “fireside chats”, set-piece speeches, Q&A’s with the Conservative youth, you name it, the Scottish Tory leader did it.

Ross also dominated the weekend headlines heading into the conference – his withering assessment of the commitment of English colleagues to the union caused awkward questions for the prime minister on Sunday.

The Moray MP promised to strike out on his own path when he took over from Jackson Carlaw in the summer, and he certainly has.

Ruth Davidson and Douglas Ross.

Ross came to conference with his own policy platform and pledges, distinct from the main Tory agenda, and on several occasions diverged from the party line.

Boris Johnson had an “uphill struggle” in Scotland, he said, English Tories needed to “wake up” to the threat from the SNP, he warned.

The linesman in his stride and unafraid – a clear move, much in the Ruth Davidson mould, to signal to voters that the Scots Tories are not “the Tories”.

Jack left on conference fringe

The move clearly reveals that Downing Street have loosened the reigns to allow the Scottish party to compete against the SNP at next year’s Holyrood elections.

While loosening them from Ross, it looked as though they had been tightened for Scottish Secretary Alister “the Union” Jack, however.

Jack, never afraid of a headline, made waves last year when he suggested deploying the navy against EU fishermen following Brexit.

This year, the Dumfries and Galloway MP was barely given five minutes on stage. Sad news for us scribes, but a sign, perhaps, that the Tories are taking the fight seriously.

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