The Scottish Conservatives have important things to say and ought to be heard.

There, I’ve said it. Occasional readers will know that this column is no platform for the political right, but there is no doubt that Scotland needs a decent centre-right force for the health of our politics.

It needs this because when political debate becomes an echo chamber of the like-minded, parliament ceases to be representative, complacency sets in, ideas are not tested properly and mistakes are made for which we all pay the price.

Often, however, our main right-of-centre party has not offered a considered, thoughtful alternative vision for Scotland, but just tedious, narrow-minded opposition to the SNP, independence and, increasingly, progressive politics.

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So it seemed to be a departure this week when the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, launched the Scottish Tories’ economic strategy – just the sort of thing he should be doing. Humza Yousaf’s first Programme for Government is due to be published next week and Ross was getting in first to call for a rethink on business and economic growth.

The timing was good. There’s a mutinous mood in the business community when it comes to the SNP Government, underlined this week by a Fraser of Allander survey of 400 Scottish companies. Only nine per cent of them said they believed the Scottish Government understood the business landscape and only eight per cent felt ministers and officials engaged effectively with them.

Though it’s only usually discussed in the hypothetical context of an independent Scotland, the SNP is heavily influenced by the Nordic economic model. Ministers looking across the North Sea are impressed by Scandinavian nations’ high standard of living, well-funded public services, respected public sector and lower levels of poverty and inequality, allied, controversially in a British context, to high taxes. It helps explain some of the Scottish Government’s fiscal choices.

The Tories meanwhile are more attracted by what they see looking the other way, across the Atlantic, favouring low taxation, low regulation and individual entrepreneurialism leading to periods of swift growth, even though this is allied to high levels of economic and social inequality, and patchy provision of public services.

Which of these competing visions, or indeed others, that Scotland should pursue, is a question of vital importance. The Tories are right to raise the question at a time when forecasts show government revenue won’t be sufficient to cover the cost of Scottish services in the long term.

But Douglas Ross is an unconvincing economic visionary. Since taking over as Scottish Tory leader three years ago, his guiding motivation has been hostility to the SNP; on economic issues, his record is alarming. Who could forget the fankle he got into a year ago when he enthusiastically backed Liz Truss’s tax cuts for the wealthiest in the midst of a raging cost of living crisis, only to U-turn 10 days later when she gave up the plan? He had even called on Nicola Sturgeon to follow suit. As economists and the Bank of England sounded the alarm about the run on the pound triggered by the strategy, Mr Ross gleefully endorsed it - until it all came crashing down. Then all of sudden he felt it wasn’t right to back it any more. Armando Iannucci could have scripted it.

Yes, he was the victim of his Westminster leader’s idiocy, but should have seen the danger ahead. We’re still living with the fall-out, as buyers struggle to get mortgages and the country is tens of billions of pounds poorer than it would have been otherwise. Are we really to take economic lessons from Douglas Ross after this?

And where was the mention of Brexit? It does not feature once in Mr Ross’s 27-page economic manifesto, in spite of being the Tory party’s defining policy of the last decade. He was happy to talk about cutting taxes and regulation, a Brexiter obsession, believing new regulations should be delayed or scrapped during times of “weak” economic performance (with “weak” remaining ominously undefined). But of Brexit itself there is nothing, which of course speaks volumes. The Tories’ vow of silence on it in the run-up to the 2024 election is an acknowledgment of failure. It has produced none of the promised benefits and made productivity four per cent smaller in the long term than it would have been otherwise (productivity being one of the things Mr Ross complains about). Britain’s poor performance compared to other major economies coming out of the pandemic is largely due to Brexit. Because of Brexit, imports and exports will be substantially lower long-term than they would have been otherwise, says the Office of Budget Responsibility. Mr Ross is keen to remind voters that Scotland has two governments but pins the blame for Scotland’s current economic woes solely on one of them. It’s absurd; it’s also rather dishonest.

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But it’s not just Douglas Ross’s lack of economic credibility that’s a problem as he tries to position himself as a visionary: it’s his divisive style of politics. He seems happy to wade into the so-called culture wars if he believes it will win him a cheer from his base, including by having a go at drag queens.

And he is tribal. Yes, he says he wants SNP rebels to vote with the Tories to remove the Greens from government, but does so by demanding they “put up or shut up”. After he has spent so many years attacking the SNP and independence, it’s hard to imagine there will be many takers among right-leaning nationalists. How odd to adopt this combative, rather hostile approach when there could be the opportunity to win over disaffected independence-supporting conservatives with conciliatory, respectful language.

The Tories haven’t a snowball’s chance of becoming the party of government in Scotland, so to that extent, it’s all academic. But we still need a sensible, considered, respected centre-right voice to test ideas, particularly on the economy. Douglas Ross may be doing his best in a pretty thankless job, but he isn’t best placed to provide it.