I tend not to consume too much news or politics during the weekend, when my other job as an unpaid taxi driver for my children kicks in. Last Sunday, though, I did happen to catch BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, with the outstanding Martin Geissler. Mr Geissler had a good line-up, with the SNP’s Deputy Leader Keith Brown, the power behind the throne of the Greens, Ross Greer, and then the Chairman of Scotland’s Tories, Craig Hoy.

As well as being a particularly pleasant person, Mr Hoy is a very able MSP. His party at Holyrood has a number of good ideas in key areas where Scotland struggles, and a number of good people who are capable of articulating those ideas, such as their Shadow Health Secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, their net zero and energy lead Liam Kerr and their spokesperson on constitutional matters, Donald Cameron.

Mr Hoy could have spoken ably and articulately to Mr Geissler about any of those matters, and he no doubt would have wished to offer an optimistic and energetic preview of his party’s Scottish conference, which starts today in Glasgow.

However, because the word "Conservative" is attached to his title, he is not given the chance. He is not given the chance because, as the Conservative Chairman in Scotland, Mr Hoy’s first job is not to articulate the policies of his colleagues at Holyrood, but to act as the first line of defence for his colleagues at Westminster.

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Mr Hoy enjoyed seven minutes of airtime; in politics, that is a high-value slot on an agenda-defining show. The first two minutes focused on the downfall of Dominic Raab after the report into his alleged bullying and unedifying behaviour. The next two minutes covered the suggestion by Francis Maude that the civil service should be partially politicised in order to ensure ministers get the advisers they want. Minutes five and six turned to Sir David Frost’s suggestion that devolution to Scotland was a poor idea which should be rolled back. And, for the final minute, Mr Geissler turned to whether or not the Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, was sufficiently supportive of the Scotch whisky industry.

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This is not the fault of Mr Geissler, nor of Mr Hoy. Both were doing their jobs, and doing them perfectly well. It is just the reality of life for a Scottish Tory, and it has been thus since the very beginning. I worked for David McLetchie, the Tories’ first leader in the devolution era. The underlying axiom now is exactly as it was then; when London sneezes, Edinburgh catches a cold.

The UK Tory Party is a ball-and-chain around the ankles of its Scottish counterpart. It is the single largest inhibitor to the centre-right reaching government in Scotland. All Tory MSPs know this, and will privately admit it. They will acknowledge the prospect of Anas Sarwar, leader of third-placed Labour, becoming First Minister; their own second-placed leader, Douglas Ross, does not feature in the conversation.

That in itself is regrettable, not just for followers of the Scottish Tories, or just for those who support the centre-right, but for Scotland as a whole. There is not a country in Europe with a weaker centre-right than Scotland, and critically there is not another country in Europe with a centre-right which has no route to power.

This will, no doubt, be of intense frustration to Mr Ross, who has much to offer. There is nothing about Mr Ross – an entirely normal person, with a normal life and normal views – which prevents him from being a credible candidate for First Minister, other than the identity of the party he leads.

Readers of these pages will be aware of my view, that if the centre-right wants to travel down the road to government in Scotland, it needs to change its vehicle. Those in and around the party who oppose me have delighted in pointing to recent election results which propelled the party into second place, and polls during that time which showed up to one in four people prepared to cross the box for the Tory Party.

It is no great surprise to me, though, that their enlarged house is being shown to have been built on sand. The party’s vote share has returned to at or near the high teens, which was always the core vote in the years before the independence referendum.

There are deep ironies here. The first is that Scotland’s Tories were saved by nationalism. The continued calls for a second independence referendum by the SNP handed the Tories its strategy on a plate; be the strongest unionists on offer, reject outright calls for a second referendum, and reap the electoral rewards as Labour’s soft unionists flock to the blue corner.

The second is that Scotland’s Tories have now been mortally wounded by unionism. When the Supreme Court – the highest authority in the UK – ruled that the Scottish Parliament did not have the authority to hold a legal referendum, it torpedoed the Tory strategy. You don’t need to vote for the Tories to stop Indyref2 now, because the court just stopped it for you. To add political insult to legal injury, there is also now relatively little hope of a Tory vote leading to a Tory government at Westminster; logic, and polls, suggest that unionists are better shifting their investment to Labour.

The party’s declining poll rating is not likely to hurt them at next year’s Westminster election. It holds six seats – three along Scotland’s southern border, and three in the north-east – and the increasing divergence between urban policy and rural concerns should help them hold them all. But the trend is clear, and by the time the 2026 Holyrood election rolls around, the party will likely pay the price.

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Just like in every other European country, there is a demand in Scotland for free-market liberalism. It is popular among unionists and, as the SNP leadership election showed, among nationalists too. And yet the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is the only party in Holyrood which has never been in government, and has no realistic route map to getting there.

As they gather in Glasgow today, Scottish Tory MSPs should take a look in the mirror and ask themselves some basic questions. Why am I in Parliament? Am I there to make things happen or just to stop things happening? Is my loyalty to my party, or to my ideals? Is it to my party or my country? Do I actually want to win?

 Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters