The more Douglas Ross talks about dangers of independence the less he achieves

It is really Willie Rennie’s bag to stage election campaign photo stunts but Douglas Ross might have been better off donning a lollipop man’s jacket and brandishing a ‘Stop’ sign for his manifesto launch.

When it comes down to it that is what the Scottish Conservative manifesto is all about, stopping a referendum and stopping independence.

It is Douglas Ross’s defining mission to deny the SNP a majority at Holyrood, and for the Moray MP it may be mission impossible.

Sure, the Scottish Tories have done it before in 2016, but each time Ross reminds voters of this it underscores the fact that he isn’t Ruth Davidson.

Ruth Davidson speaks at her last First Minister’s Questions before going to the House of Lords

By their own reckoning the Conservatives reached the summit of Tory support in Scotland under Davidson.

Gaining 30 MSPs, becoming the biggest opposition party and denying the SNP a majority was a remarkable achievement. Under Ross, with less wattage and charisma than than the ‘end of the peer’ Davidson, the Tory star is already on the wane.

Ross tried to max out the Unionist vote by looking for an alliance with Labour’s Anas Sarwar. Having been rebuffed he retreated to traditional Tory tax cuts for the rich while trying to sound reasonable on everything else.

A laser-like focus on recovery, a catch-up premium for every pupil, training for the unemployed. Who could disagree? If someone else read it out, perhaps Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory manifesto might sound reasonable.

But this was Douglas Ross, and he is no Ruth Davidson.

Ross is also shackled to Boris Johnson, the most unpopular politician in Scotland, bar Alex Salmond.

He is also haunted by his own, much regretted, words on gypsy travellers from four years ago which do not chime with the Scottish political classes’ view of themselves as beacons of tolerance or inclusion.

Worse for Ross his shrill opening to the campaign, with his aggressive attacks on independence, played against him too.

All the studies of polarised politics shows that highlighting the deficiencies in voters’ strongly-held beliefs does not persuade of much, it actually makes them dig in deeper.

This is the paradox for Ross.

He is right in one sense, this strange election is only about one issue really, independence.

But the more Ross goes on about the dangers of a second referendum the more likely it is that he makes it a reality.

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