I AM a Rangers fan. I don’t go to Ibrox anymore, since the kids came along, but I used to go most weeks with my father. Those were great days. Spending time with dad, watching Rangers (usually) win.

For me, though, a Rangers win sparked a feeling of relief, more than anything else. To achieve unbridled joy as a football fan I needed something else; I needed Celtic to lose.

It’s incredibly parochial, I know, and it’s embarrassing to type the words, but it’s true. Celtic losing was more important to me than Rangers winning. It’s the mentality of the deeply unambitious. A loser’s mentality. Allowing emotions to override common sense. I’m more mellow now. I don’t much care what Celtic do as long as Rangers do better (which now doesn’t happen, sadly!).

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To transfer genre, the mentality I exhibited at football is akin to the mentality the Scottish Tory party exhibits in politics. If you ask almost any Tory politician what their ambition is, they’ll give you a quick, straight, clear answer: they want to stop the SNP and nationalism.

I could count on one hand, without needing all the fingers, how many of them would tell me that their objective is to win. To form the Scottish Government. For their leader to live in Bute House.

The sentiment is the result of hyper-emotion. Tory unionists are emotional about the United Kingdom in a manner which borders hysteria. Some may find that an admirable passion, but the trouble is that their emotion skews their decision-making. The obvious comparison to make is with the SNP. They love their country as well, don’t they? Yes, indeed they do. But there the parallels stop.

The SNP is often called a machine, and it’s an apt adjective in several ways. As a campaigning force, its ability to target, to adapt, to shift focus, to use data, is at the heart of its ability to win.

Its purpose, independence, may be emotional, but its strategy to achieve it is anything but. It is cold, clinical, practical. The relatively small group of people who have been taking the key decisions on how to run the SNP, and with it nationalism, for the last 20 years do not allow emotion to obscure good decision making.

Just look at the 2014 white paper. Do we really think Alex Salmond’s natural territory was to fight a left-wing campaign? Not so much, but the data told him he needed to switch hundreds of thousands of Labour-voting socialists, so he did it.

Has the SNP membership been dreaming, for all these years, of an independent Scotland with the Queen as its head of state and the Pound as its currency? Of course not, but they knew that to encourage soft unionists to vote yes they could not advocate cutting fundamental ties of cultural Britishness.

This is the margin between winning and losing. And it is what makes Scotland the global market leader in the failure of the centre-right. After next May’s formality, by 2026 the SNP will have been in government for almost 20 years, with no end in sight, and no opposition plan to reach that end.

Where else in the world does this happen? From New Zealand to the Netherlands, from Spain to Sweden, the job of governing goes back and forth between the centre-left and the centre-right. Not so here. For someone like me, generally sympathetic to the centre-right outlook as the best way to improve people’s lives, this is humiliating.

In other countries, if the vehicle is a write-off, they build a new vehicle, like in Canada, for instance, where Stephen Harper quit the Progressive Conservatives and reformed the centre-right, going on to become a three-term Prime Minister. He wasn’t emotional about a political party; he wanted the centre-right to win, he decided the PC couldn’t, he built a new vehicle.

Here, the Tories call a tow truck, patch it up, crash it again, and repeat ad nauseam.

Tories have been telling me for years that “this time it’s different” and they have a plan. I’m bored, to be blunt. If they’re so damn smart, why do they lose all the time?

The Tories’ problem is not very hard to recognise for those who are prepared to look, and it is shared with Labour and the Lib Dems. These parties are not run by their Westminster brethren, but they are bound to them, and it places a ceiling on their support.

Why did the Lib Dems lose two-thirds of their MSPs in 2011? Was it because of Tavish Scott? No, of course not; it was because the UK party went into coalition with the Tories in 2010.

Why did Labour record its worst ever Holyrood result in 2016? Was it because of Kezia Dugdale? Not at all; it was because Jeremy Corbyn (a man less popular in Scotland than Boris Johnson, according to polling) had taken over, and his mumbling and bumbling meant Labour had no credible position on the only issue of the day, independence.

And why do the opposition Tories never have a chance of running the country? Not because they haven't had quality leaders; they have. But because their fortunes in Scotland always have been, and always will be, tied to Westminster. We are witnessing it right now, with Scottish Tory polling being directly tied to the perception of Boris Johnson’s handling of coronavirus.

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It means the room for manoeuvre for any Scottish leader is severely limited. They are shackled.

This will be as true for Douglas Ross as it has been for his predecessors. Mr Ross is smart, and has taken to elected politics like a duck to water. He’s extremely normal and has had a life outside politics. He has a good feel for the “man in the street”.

Most importantly in this context, he has courage; resigning as a minister in a newly elected landslide government isn’t easy. He is, personally, a winner, proven at all levels of politics.

What he must do is use the courage, winning mentality and streetwise attitude he has to ask and answer two simple questions. Does he want to be First Minister? And is he prepared to do whatever it takes to get there?

Otherwise, what exactly is the point of all this?

• Andy Maciver is Director of Message Matters

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