IT’S a tricky place, the moral high ground. Hard to reach, harder to hold.

“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right.”

So wrote Douglas Ross in his resignation statement from the Scotland Office in May 2020. He bade farewell after just six months as a junior minister over the Dominic Cummings affair - the only minister to quit over it.

The Prime Minister’s former henchman had just insisted he’d driven to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, not long after fleeing from London to Durham with his family during the first Covid lockdown.

It was too much for Mr Ross, and he tweeted out his letter to say why.

Note that Mr Cummings, although his explanation stank, was never fined by the police. There was no questionnaire equivalent to an interview under caution, no fixed penalty, no report lurking in the background accusing him of sloppy leadership and allowing a drinking culture to develop in Downing Street.

But there was a national outrage, and there too was Mr Ross saying his “first duty” was to his Moray constituents.

Those same constituents haven’t lost any fewer loved ones to Covid since then. They haven’t mourned less, or been unable to visit fewer relatives in care.

They still can’t square their sacrifices for the common good with the actions taken at the top of the UK Government for personal convenience and fun.

Rather, the passage of time will only have added to the burdens and woes of Mr Ross’s constituents. However their MP operates on a different level.

After taking the moral high ground in 2020, it stood him in good stead when he became Scottish Tory leader weeks later.

A leader of principle, said the Tory spin machine. Stood his ground on Cummings.

That same cussed streak was to the fore this January, when Mr Ross called for Mr Johnson to go over partygate.

“I am in the position now where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives,” he said at the time. “It’s a breach of the guidance. It’s a breach of the rules... It’s also breaking the law.” Most of his MPs and MSPs eagerly supported him.

But that, of course, was when Mr Johnson looked on the skids.

By early March, a stronger PM had persuaded enough Tory MPs that Ukraine had made him indispensable, and Mr Ross reckoned he’d better kiss and make up.

His constituents were no longer first, but had to be weighed in the balance.

The scales which had been so decisively in favour of Mr Johnson’s exit they seemed nailed to the bench now miraculously tipped in the other direction.

Mr Ross withdrew his no confidence letter, said partygate should be “put on pause while there is a war in Europe”, and welcomed Mr Johnson to the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen.

In a few moments, Mr Ross slipped off the moral high ground and plunged into the same sucking ditch occupied by the PM. Using the war as a rationale added to his offence in many people’s eyes.

So where does he go now? I don’t think he goes anywhere. I think he’s stuffed.

If the Scottish Tory leader had held to his line, he might have had a future. But you can’t veer from one extreme to another (and possibly hope to veer back again) without people noticing.

If Mr Ross had, like Ruth Davidson, never hidden his distaste for the PM but carefully adjusted the volume up and down as required, that would have been one thing. It would have shown some political nous. But you can’t go round gagging on the taste of Marmite one day then pretend it’s delicious the next. The inconsistency is overwhelming.

Besides looking like a toady, Mr Ross’s judgment is also in the spotlight.

On the crudest, transactional level, what’s in this for him and his party?

Mr Johnson isn’t going to start smelling sweeter any time soon. More fines and more scandals seem inevitable. The electorate is turning its back on him.

He may regard himself as a wartime leader, but voters merely see him as the leader we had when the war started.

Unless he’s hoping for a cosy number in the Lords, history tells us Mr Ross’s loyalty will not be reciprocated.

On the contrary, his support for the PM will lower his standing in Scotland.

As Sir Keir Starmer put it on Tuesday: “As ever with this Prime Minister, those close to him find themselves ruined and the institutions that he vows to protect damaged: good Ministers forced to walk away from public service; the Chancellor’s career up in flames; the leader of the Scottish Conservatives rendered pathetic.”

Had Mr Ross hung back, losses in the council election next month - when the Scottish Tories are defending record gains made in 2017 - could also have been laid at the door of Number 10. By aligning himself with the PM, Mr Ross has taken ownership of any reversal in May.

He has also given his opponents a gift with which to taunt him all the way to polling day. He’s Rubber Ross, the bendy, pretendy man of principle.

Perhaps more damagingly, it has shown he hasn’t got the ruthless streak needed to be a leader. He should, bluntly, have put himself first, and to hell with Mr Johnson.

Mr Ross’s mission is to become First Minister. A long shot, I grant you, but that’s his job. Instead of sticking to it, he did something that makes it even harder, and without any apparent reward.

He has miscalculated, and it’s on him.

It’s too late for Mr Ross to return to the heady, moralising tone of May 2020.

He’s down in the mud with his boss.

The Scottish Tory leader is closer to the resignation of his predecessor in July 2020.

“Nothing is more important to me than making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom,” wrote Jackson Carlaw.

“In the last few weeks, I have reached a simple if painful conclusion - that I am not, in the present circumstances, the person best placed to lead that case.”

How long before Mr Ross reaches the same painful conclusion, I wonder.