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by Louise Wilson
06 January 2023
Sketch: Douglas Ross makes a New Year’s resolution

Douglas Ross delivered a speech on Friday morning

Sketch: Douglas Ross makes a New Year’s resolution

Douglas Ross really wants to forget 2022 ever happened. And Douglas Ross really, really wants you to forget 2022 ever happened too.

It was now time to “focus on the future”, the beleaguered Scottish Tory leader tells a room full of journalists, apparently hoping they will not ask any more questions about last year’s events or how he’d reacted to them.

No such luck for poor Dougie though.

Did he regret backing Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss and then Truss’ disastrous mini-budget, one journalist asks. There are “always opportunities in hindsight to make different decisions” replies Ross, channeling all the sagacity of his former bosses.

The rather astute journalist, though, notices Ross hasn’t actually answered the question. He tries again: does Ross regret his actions?

“Everyone looks at their decisions and reviews them. I do it more often than most in my football capacity. There are some offsides I wish I didn’t give, some offsides I wish I did give,” Ross garbles, more at home mumbling nonsense about sport than nonsense about politics. He continues: “So, look, you look back, you reflect, you move on.” The pleading in his voice can be heard from the next room.

The last year had simply been a spot of “political turbulence” which had “impacted” the Scottish wing of the party, he admits. But you see, Scotland has no other choice but to back the Tories if we want to be a democracy.

“Governments in democracies normally alternate between parties of different political beliefs. Left and right; radical and traditionalist; socialist and conservative,” he tells the room. “Labour only offer more of the same approach taken by the SNP.” Ergo, Labour cannot be the opposition if Scotland is to be a normal democracy – according to the wisdom of Ross.

To be fair to the guy, there are a lot of similarities between Labour and the SNP. But could it be that the reason both do well is because, shock horror, the electorate actually agree with their positions? No, don’t be silly. It’s because democracy is broken, that is the real reason the Scottish Conservatives are flagging in the opinion polls. Two plus two does not equal four. No wonder Rishi Sunak wants people to learn maths for longer.

Taking a leaf from the SNP playbook, Ross insists that his party are the true anti-establishment party (despite being the ones in power). Because at the Scottish Parliament, where a consensus “has failed Scottish politics since 1999”, Conservative MSPs are “proudly Holyrood’s non-conformists”. They have become the true rebels.

Meanwhile, UK leader of the rebel force Rishi Sunak – the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – has brought “quiet stability and competency” into government (it’s all relative, right?), so now is the time to begin taking the Tory message to the nation. Much better than, say, two-and-a-bit years ago when Ross couped his way to the leadership.

“There is no better time for us to begin our fight to set out that vision,” Ross continues. Ah, so not even setting out a vision just now. Merely beginning the fight to allow him to set out his vision, which is coming – promise. “Scottish voters aren’t interested in hearing the alternative we are offering three weeks before an election,” or even three years before an election, apparently.

Yet another pesky journalist asks if Ross could furnish the room with more details on his plans. What will be proposed at the party’s spring conference which is, in Ross’ own words, to be focused on “our economy and public services”?

“It’s the areas I’ve spoken on,” clarifies Ross, helpfully. “I want you to turn up, I’m not going to give it all away right now.” Ah, so the mystery is the selling point of the Tory conference. Come along in April and you might find a wonderful surprise. Got to get bums in seats somehow, I suppose. That line at least got a laugh from the three MSPs and several Tory press officers in the room (earning their keep).

Ross finishes up his speech with a rallying call. It is time, he says, for his party to “step out of the shadow of events of the past year”. A shadow, let’s not forget, that it created itself.

They must “work hard to re-earn the trust” of voters and “build Scotland’s Real Alternative” (capitalisation is Ross’ own… read into that what you will). “That’s my resolution for 2023,” Ross concludes. Indeed. And like the majority of New Year’s resolutions, one that will no doubt be broken by the start of February.

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Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Patrick Harvie: Douglas Ross ‘playing shallow politics’ over Michael Matheson row.

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