THERE’S a metropolitan problem in English politics: assuming that everyone thinks the same way as liberal middle-class people in London. But there’s a metropolitan problem in Scottish politics too and it may help the new Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross do better than we think he will.

The problem is this: large parts of metropolitan Scotland are radical and ideologically left-wing and support independence, but there’s a tendency to forget that large parts of the country do not think the same way. Mr Ross has already touched on this in his initial thoughts on the leadership – he would like more power to be shared out from Edinburgh and, as an Aberdonian like Mr Ross, I approve. Holyrood should not be the full-stop of devolution.

Mr Ross’s roots in Aberdeen also, I think, may explain other parts of his political thinking. Much of Scotland’s image as a place of radical politics was formed to the sound of the hammer and the pickaxe – it came from the shipyards and factories and coal mines, and because of that, Glasgow became the capital of Scotland’s radicalism, first with Labour and now with the SNP.

But the radicalism of Glasgow is not the whole story. In the Highlands, there’s a much more liberal tradition, and the further north you go, the more liberal it gets, while up in Aberdeen and down in Dumfries-shire and the Borders, there’s a strong streak of conservatism. In Aberdeen, some of it may come from our cautious natures: radicalism equals change, and we don’t like change.

As Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross has the capacity to tap into those feelings, but there’s an extra factor which may work in his favour in the way it did for Ruth Davidson. Mr Ross is not a Tory toff or the kind of Anglicised Scot that used to represent the Tories. He’s from an ordinary background and his views and instincts reflect what a lot of other Scots from ordinary backgrounds think.

Take his call for “tougher enforcement against Gypsy Travellers” for instance. The SNP immediately cried “racist!” before downgrading it to “abhorrent!”, but it’s perfectly fair to be concerned about illegal camps, and this is where the metropolitan effect kicks in again: middle-class, city liberals assume everyone thinks like they do, on race, sex, gender, or Brexit, but they don’t. Many Scots in large parts of the country are more cautious and conservative.

The SNP’s tactic on all of this – and it’s already wobbled – is to portray Mr Ross’s conservatism as extreme, but actually he is from a Scottish tradition of right-of-centre pragmatic conservatism that still exists. Take his views on Brexit. The SNP said he had “failed to stand up for Scotland by backing an extreme Brexit” but he is merely taking the view that a lot of centrist Scots now take: we voted Remain but let’s try to get the best Brexit we can.

Mr Ross’s common sense was also at work in the Dominic Cummings affair. He was the only minister to resign over it, saying he could not in good faith defend a government advisor who had travelled hundreds of miles during the initial stages of lockdown, and his resignation was a good sign for his future as Scottish Tory leader. If he diverges from the rest of the UK party when he sees fit, as Ruth Davidson did, it will serve him well.

All of these factors could help Mr Ross connect with voters in the centrist middle (the place where most of the common sense resides) as well as a large part of conservative Scotland including the socially conservative working-class parts of urban Scotland. But the problem he has is that he’s taking over during a public health crisis in which the SNP government is seen to be doing well. It is this, perversely, that has helped support for independence to edge over 50%: the less Nicola Sturgeon has talked about independence, the more people have supported it.

The question is: what happens when life returns to normality in Scotland ie the SNP banging on about independence every day? It was frustration with that approach among ordinary Scots – and Ruth Davidson’s plain-speaking ability to capitalise on it – that led to the Tory surge in 2017. Could it happen again under Mr Ross?

To be honest, at the moment, it’s hard to see how – the circumstances of 2017 are unlikely to repeat themselves in time for the next Scottish election. But at least the Tories will have a leader who has some of the same qualities as Ms Davidson. He sounds normal. He’s from an ordinary background. He’s willing to do his own thing. And he says what a lot of Scots are thinking.

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