NOW that the Conservative leadership campaign is underway, I hope it proves to be quick and decisive.

It’s been an ugly week for politics north and south of the border, with a councillor’s home and MSP’s office firebombed, and milkshakes thrown at Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party activists.

So it hardly needs saying that our next leader must be a unifying figure, given the fractious state of the party, let alone the country.

Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, I recall a world full of political leaders who ended decades of deep division for the sake of the greater good. They were much darker times than now but as a lesson in leadership and bringing people together, maybe instructive. John Hume and David Trimble. Nelson Mandela and F W de Klerk. Each brave enough to reach across the divide. But they also possessed another, perhaps greater, kind of courage. They were able to turn and face the hardline elements of their own side, look them straight in the eye, and persuade them to compromise. Of course Brexit is hardly comparable to the agonies of the Troubles or the sorrows of apartheid South Africa. But we are undoubtedly in the midst of a national crisis that has polarised Britain and thus in desperate need of a visionary leader who can heal the country, by building bridges both internally and externally.

From a Scottish perspective we need someone who’s committed to the union but who also understands devolution and recognises that Brexit means the devolved settlement is changing and needs strengthening. Theresa May’s attachment to the United Kingdom was sincere. She had a genuine belief in the integrity of Britain for which she will be remembered and which her successor surely needs to echo. That’s why the concept of a “union delivery unit” at the centre of Downing Street is an important one: it would allow the UK Government to respond adequately to the needs of the devolved nations and ensure that the union is front and centre in the mind of the new Prime Minister.

The influx of new Scottish Conservative MPs in 2017 has led to a greater acknowledgement in Downing Street of their particular priorities, be it Scotland’s food and drinks industry, fisheries, or the oil and gas sector. It has also led to a more acute understanding in Number 10 of the nuances of Scottish politics (often lacking in Westminster) and a welcome respect to the instincts of Ruth Davidson and the Scottish party in this regard. A new leader should continue this. They will still have to challenge the SNP head-on, but in an intuitive, meaningful way.

Theresa May’s exit will be upon us in less than a fortnight. As we contemplate the end it’s worth remembering the beginning. The first speech she made when she entered Downing Street was also her best. She spoke of fighting against the “burning injustices” in society. Her words are worth quoting in full: “ if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home.”

Sadly this agenda made little headway: it was quickly subsumed by the 2017 election and ensuing Brexit saga. But its centrist, ‘one nation’ message endures and the new leader should revisit it, taking a leaf too from Ruth Davidson’s recent call for a ‘blue collar’ revolution and “a society that always gives people another crack of the whip, that never gives up on them or leaves them behind”.

A leader who showed that kind of ambition, coupled with a commitment to both unity and union, would satisfy many in the Scottish Conservatives.

Who’s game?

Donald Cameron is a Tory MSP for Highlands and Islands