WHITHER Ruth Davidson? The Scottish Tory leader has hardly come across hitherto as a hard-right Thatcherite but, in aiming for the centre, she is pulling left at a fair rate of knots.

During a speech in Glasgow last night, she presented herself as pro-immigration; she backed extra funds for the NHS across the UK in preference to tax breaks (and even followed in the great left-wing tradition of not being too clear about where funding would come from); she almost invoked the spirit of Labour’s radical post-1945 Government when she called for a new generation of garden villages and towns with affordable housing; she spoke up for the young unemployed in former manufacturing towns, for “Generation Rent” and for pensioners fearful of losing social care.

She alluded to the the growing dangers of right-wing populism, and wanted to assure EU citizens living here that they were welcome to stay.

On immigration in particular, she decried the idea of setting a target reduced to tens of thousands at a time of skills shortages, just as Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was issuing a statement claiming that Westminster Tory plans to do just that could cost Scotland £10 billion a year.

Ms Davidson’s talk of reclaiming centre-ground values, “shared by both Labour and Conservative moderates”, was one thing. Finding herself almost onside with the SNP was quite another.

The Tory leader has never hidden her “progressive” credentials, for which she has found herself popular with the trendy commentariat in London. But we wonder how this will play with her party south of the Border and, indeed, with English Tory voters. The centre is not necessarily where you find Middle England.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that, in coming across like a Nordic-style conservative (with a small c), she is positioning herself for a Scottish audience in advance of the next Holyrood elections.

Indeed, the Tory leader waxed lyrical about Scotland’s economic potential in food and drink, life sciences, engineering, higher education and quantum technology, in which it might become “a global leader”.

All under the aegis of the Union, of course, but that Union had to be “not something that is done to us” but something that we do. Clearly, Ms Davidson has been doing some thinking. And thinking is good and healthy for the body politic.

It has led Ms Davidson to be critical of her own party – something that, to be fair, she has been before (or at least the Boris Johnson part of it). It remains to be seen whether her party might start to get critical back – and to question whether she is taking things too far for their liking.