THERE are notable exceptions but political leaders generally start well, with comforting statements and appealing promises.

Rishi Sunak does not rank among the exceptions. Who could object to his offer of integrity, stability and compassion?

Delivery, of course, will be another matter, not least with regard to the economy; a crisis made measurably worse by his immediate predecessor.

But, still, he made a decent start. I was particularly struck by his determination to “earn the trust” of the people.

Note that choice of word. Not “win”, which conjures up the thought of a single, first past the post election.

No, it was “earn”. Which summons up an iterative, continuing process. This goes to the core of the dispute about electoral mandate.

By what right does Rishi Sunak govern the United Kingdom? By what power does he determine economic policy in these islands, including for Scotland?

The Prime Minister relies specifically upon the electoral mandate gained by the Conservatives at the UK General Election in 2019; a comfortable majority of 80.

I understand the point made by his opponents which is that the majority gained three years ago has expired, that it is defunct.

They argue that this majority was won by Boris Johnson and that it should not, in conscience, have been inherited by Liz Truss, who pursued different polices. Still less through yet another leadership change.

I get the point. I understand the concept. To a substantial degree, I sympathise.

Further, Rishi Sunak himself has helped dispel any sense of continuity post 2019 by disavowing not one but both of his predecessors.

In July, I chanced to be in the Red Lion pub in Whitehall when news broke of Mr Sunak’s resignation as Chancellor. Minutes later, the Prime Minister’s cavalcade raced towards Downing Street – the impact not lost upon Mr Johnson.

Now, Mr Sunak has replaced Liz Truss, blaming her directly and bluntly for economic mistakes – which he promises to rectify.

What possible continuum can exist from 2019 to encompass Mr Sunak? He himself acted in a manner which implied that his two predecessors, who bore that mandate, are to be repudiated.

Resign, say Opposition leaders. Call an election. The SNP say the Tories are “feart” of the voters.

Again, I understand. However, I also think that the PM’s promise to “earn trust” projects an alternative perspective.

We are not led, either at UK or devolved level, by presidents or directly sanctioned heads of government.

The Prime Minister’s mandate subsists in the capacity to command a majority in the House of Commons and thus to attract the invitation of the King to govern in his name.

Other than that regal fiat, it is not strictly a personal mandate. It relies solely upon the continuing ability to win votes in the House.

That capacity was granted to the Tories in 2019. Mr Sunak was careful to say that “his party” had won such a mandate, not solely Boris Johnson.

Wisely, Mr Sunak did not address the alternative scenario. That he might lose the ability to command the House. Which was the factor which, ultimately, ousted both Mr Johnson and Ms Truss.

So, when Rishi Sunak says he intends to “earn the trust” of the people, he also means that this trust will be expressed through continuing, earned support in the Commons.

Such has been the case for every PM who has followed another without a popular ballot – including H.H. Asquith, Jim Callaghan, John Major (initially) and Gordon Brown.

It was also the case in 2014 when Nicola Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond as First Minister.

Nationalists say that was only once, not twice – and that Ms Sturgeon won an affirmative vote of MSPs at Holyrood.

That has some weight but is not, in my view, decisive. These things are not absolute. Mandates are arithmetical but they are also founded upon mood, upon continuing popular toleration.

Nicola Sturgeon now has experience of dissent within her ranks, including a Ministerial resignation over gender recognition plans. She would be wise to treat these as conscience votes and not in any way a challenge to her leadership.

Consider a related issue. Does Nicola Sturgeon have a mandate to instigate a referendum on independence?

That, too, is disputed.

Yes, the SNP and the Greens together comprise majority support for independence. But they gained that majority in elections to a devolved Parliament which, arguably, does not have the power to order a binding plebiscite.

This matter is currently being considered by the UK Supreme Court. We await their judgement.

For now, Rishi Sunak is adamantly opposed to indyref2. However, I expect there may be some subterranean discourse anent future plans.

Either way, Douglas Ross appears to want to polarise politics in Scotland again, to pitch fundamental Unionism against the SNP offer, presumably hoping thereby to squeeze Labour out of the debate.

He cited claims that an independent Scotland would have to adopt the Euro currency in order to rejoin the EU. The SNP project, he argued further, would wreck the economy.

This endeavour by the Scottish Conservative leader was not an unalloyed success.

Firstly, it reminded voters that Scotland had been taken out of the EU against the wishes of her people. Secondly, it reminded those same voters of the current economic crisis, within the Union.

With regard to currency, I believe that would be a matter to be resolved by negotiation. The eagerness of EU officials to promote their currency would run up against a competing desire to readmit at least a portion of the departed UK.

Contrary to the views quoted by Mr Ross, it has been suggested to me that there is no firmly fixed EU position on currency for applicant countries – which might enable Scotland to settle the matter over a relatively prolonged timetable.

It is all, as the Prime Minister reminded us, a matter of earning and retaining public trust. Which is frequently a question of displaying confidence.

We are told that Mr Sunak is an admirer of Star Wars. Perhaps he will follow Yoda’s advice on confronting problems.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

Better myself could not I have it put.