DOUGLAS Ross could be forgiven for holding his head in his hands following Boris Johnson’s latest choice comments just days before the Scottish Conservatives hold their virtual annual conference.

On Monday night Downing St was desperately trying to explain away the Minister for the Union’s suggestion that devolution had been a “disaster north of the border” and was one of Tony Blair’s “biggest mistakes”.

“The PM has always supported devolution,” declared a No 10 source, “but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland."

The source added: “Devolution is great but not when it’s used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK.”

Mr Ross was quick to hit social media, tweeting: “Devolution has not been a disaster. The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum - above jobs, schools and everything else - has been a disaster.”

Of course, the Conservative argument has always been that the SNP does not believe in devolution, which involves the sharing of power, but independence. No matter how many further powers Whitehall gave the Scottish Parliament, it would never be enough for Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues because they would want all of them.

Earlier this month, The Herald reported how senior Tory sources regarded Mr Johnson as a “monkey on Douglas Ross’s back”. That is, whatever the Scottish Conservative leader did, the Prime Minister would say or do something that would undermine his attempt to boost party fortunes north of the border.

Of course, there might be some people who think Mr Johnson’s latest remarks are all part of a cunning plan to put some political water between himself and Mr Ross to boost the latter’s standing in the eyes of Scots ahead of next May’s Holyrood poll.

But attempts by Baldrick in Blackadder to come up with some successful Machiavellian strategy were always comically ridiculous.

Labour’s Ian Murray also sought to make political capital out of the PM's remarks, declaring how devolution had been one of Labour’s proudest achievements and noting that the PM’s intervention “confirms Boris Johnson doesn’t believe in devolution and would put the future of the United Kingdom at risk”.

Last year when the prospect of a Johnson premiership emerged with the imminent ousting of Theresa May from Downing St, the First Minister suggested it would mean the chances of Scottish independence would “sky-rocket”. More recently, one senior SNP figure described Mr Johnson as the SNP’s “biggest recruiting sergeant”.

Since March and the UK Government’s handling of coronavirus there have been 14 consecutive polls that have put the independence cause ahead.

This newspaper was told recently that Tory candidates fighting next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections would not want the PM anywhere near their campaign and would urge him to stay well away from Scotland during the campaign.

The PM’s latest comments would surely only have reinforced their view. Indeed, it may be that some Scottish Conservatives believe the disaster is not devolution but Mr Johnson’s leadership.