YOU’VE got to admire his chutzpah.

Few voters outside Moray know who Douglas Ross is. Recognition value within his own party may even be a moot point (following the MP’s resignation as a Scottish Office minister during the recent Dominic Cummings scandal, a Westminster Tory source described Mr Ross as “Mr Nobody”).

Yet the 37-year-old north east native apparently believes he has what it takes to lead the Scottish Tories to victory in next May’s Holyrood election and achieve what his biggest supporter, Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links, failed to do: become First Minister.

Despite no public profile to speak of and very little time to build one, Mr Ross’s approach over the last few days has certainly been bold. Ruthless, even, in way he and the party swept Jackson Carlaw aside.

You get the feeling his campaign team hope for a Barack Obama-style recognition trajectory: at the beginning of 2008 few knew who Obama was; by the end of that year he was US President. If Mr Ross’s first approach to voters is anything to go by, however, the political figure we may be soon be comparing him to is Jo Swinson. Team Ross would be well-advised to learn lessons from the former Lib-Dem leader’s disastrous 2019 general election campaign, not least how poorly she communicated with voters in Scotland.

It’s early days, obviously, and Mr Ross hasn’t even been elected party leader yet, though this looks like a coronation rather than a competition. But the piece Mr Ross wrote for a newspaper yesterday, setting out his stall, was ill-conceived to say the least. Indeed, the sort of undecided voter his party desperately needs to pick up over the next few months may have found themselves themselves wincing, even chuckling, at some of the tone-deaf rhetoric.

Here’s an example. Near the beginning of the Sunday Times article Mr Ross states that “a decade and more of nationalist government has left Scotland a divided country”. Many readers, even those who don’t support the SNP, may immediately find themselves thinking about the how a decade of Tory government at Westminster has indeed left Scotland divided. Between the haves and the have nots. Between the working and the working poor. Between those who benefit from employment rights and those left at the mercy of the so-called gig-economy. Between those who rely on deliberately-underfunded public services and those who don’t have to.

“It’s the nature of nationalism to divide,” Mr Ross goes on, seemingly without a hint of irony. The Little England narrative peddled by Boris Johnson and his cronies delivered Brexit at the ballot box, a divisive and disastrous outcome that the vast majority of Scots remain economically, socially and ideologically opposed to.

Let’s see how a no deal Brexit on 31 December - an outcome engineered and encouraged by a game-playing Prime Minister roundly despised and distrusted in Scotland - works out for Mr Ross’s Holyrood campaign. Such a result would undoubtedly heap even more misery upon Scottish businesses already on the brink after what will, by the end of the year, be 10-months of Covid-19-related downturn.

Mr Ross is apparently a keen supporter of Boris Johnson (was it purely coincidence that the PM’s recent visit to Scotland took in Moray and the elbow-bumping between the two was particularly chummy? Of course not.) Maybe he truly believes he can influence Mr Johnson on Brexit policy where Ruth Davidson, David Mundell and Jackson Carlaw failed.

But there lies the fundamental, inescapable rub for Scottish Tories. It doesn’t matter who leads them. They are shackled to a UK party that appears to revel in acting against the best interests of Scotland.

Those most committed to the Union will still cast their votes for the party next May. They have nowhere else to go.

But polls over the last few months have detected a shift. The size of this steadfastly pro-Union group looks like it is decreasing, largely due to Brexit. Younger voters remain overwhelmingly in support of independence.

In a bid to counter this, Mr Ross refers throughout the aforementioned article to patriotism, a term associated with the sort of brash Brexiteers most in Scotland can’t stand, and is surely no less problematic than “nationalism”.

The architects of his campaign - among them Michael Gove - have little choice but to focus on “saving” the Union. But how do you even begin to do this when your own party works against you at every turn? That remains the enduring, unanswerable question for whoever leads the Scottish Tories.