This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Practice doesn’t always help. Douglas Ross may have been sidelined and ignored by his colleagues in London before, but the humiliation of this Budget is still something special.

For months, the Scottish Tory leader has been positioning his party as the last-ditch champion of the North East of Scotland and its oil and gas industries. 

The SNP may have got into bed with the Greens on Net Zero, and Starmer’s Labour aren’t far behind, but never fear, the Tories are the region’s original hydrocarbon heroes.

You want more oil and gas licences? You want high skill jobs? You hate the exorbitant windfall levy on energy profits? Well, what a coincidence, so do the Scottish Tories.

And if you happen to feel grateful, the party would casually like to remind you that it’s defending three seats locally at the election and hoping to pick up a fourth. Just saying.

The windfall tax, or Energy Profits Levy, was introduced by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor in May 2022 at 25%, raising the overall tax on producers to 65%.

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The money helped pay for supporting families through the cost of living crisis created by the aftermath of Covid and the energy price shock after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The surcharge was raised to 35% by Jeremy Hunt six months later after he took over as Chancellor, taking the overall tax to 75% with a promise to scrap it in 2028.

But because the tax was first proposed by Labour and the SNP, and sympathy for oil giants with mega-profits is thin on the ground, no political blame attached to the Tories. 

Then Labour said that if it got into power, it would increase the tax burden from 75 to 78% and extend it to 2029. Cue outrage from Mr Ross and his party.

That could see investment collapse. It could cost up to 100,000 jobs. It would be madness.

It was such an effective pitch that the SNP tried to steal it. 

Despite his governing partners, the Greens, wanting the windfall tax to be harsher, Humza Yousaf last month made a speech in Aberdeen in which he too damned Labour’s plan.

His own position was thoroughly vague. He wanted the windfall tax to stay at 75% until some indeterminate point in the future when it would be all right to stop it. Details TBC.

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Yes, it was all going so well for Mr Ross and his party. Until it wasn’t.

Ill-omens appeared last Friday at the Scottish Tory conference in – where else? – Aberdeen.

Bloomberg reported Mr Hunt was looking to extend the hated windfall tax to help pay for a tax cut in his budget. When Mr Sunak held a press conference, he was expansive when asked about a possible NI cut.

But asked about the windfall levy he clammed up, while Mr Ross and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack sat stoney-faced on either side of him.

The next day, Mr Ross fired a shot across the Treasury’s bows. Extending the levy would be an “unacceptable blow” to the North East, he said. By Monday, his blood was up.

The Telegraph reported he had a “heated” discussion with Mr Sunak about the levy at a Commons event, then badgered Mr Hunt to no avail. The paper said Mr Jack had even been mobilised to talk Mr Ross out of resigning as party leader.

The Herald: Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the continued windfall tax would be an 'unacceptable blow' to the North EastScottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the continued windfall tax would be an 'unacceptable blow' to the North East (Image: Newsquest)
When the budget came, Mr Hunt confirmed he was extending the windfall tax by a year to raise £1.5bn. Mr Ross declared he was “deeply disappointed” and wouldn’t vote for it.

Andrew Bowie, the Aberdeenshire Tory MP and energy minister, said he agreed with Mr Ross about the “deeply disappointing” change.

Peak schadenfreude followed at Holyrood, where the Tories had arranged a debate on “Backing Scotland’s oil and gas sector”. Oh, how their opponents laughed.

This is Mr Ross’s doing as well as Mr Hunt’s. 

The Scottish Tory leader parroted the oil industry shroud-waving about 100,000 job losses and it came back to bite him. 

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Mr Jack said after the budget he simply didn’t believe jobs would be lost and it was only right that firms that made so much money should pay some of it back to society. 

Yes, he would say that, but someone needs to debunk the hysteria.

In the meantime, Mr Ross’s voter strategy has been upended, his Westminster group is split, and his MSPs are furious at being made to look fools. It’s going to be quite an election.