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Both were just happy not to have gaffed.

Byline: Andy Maciver

Friday's Tory leadership hustings in Perth were interesting, but not particularly informative. We have seen, throughout the campaign, two candidates who have struggled to cope with the Scottish dimension, and this was ruthlessly exposed by Colin Mackay, STV's political editor, who was asked by the Tories to chair the two-hour session.

In truth, both men looked like they were happy to get out without a major gaffe. They looked less assured than at any other hustings so far, because they were less assured than at any other hustings so far.

For they have not just the usual unanswerable question (Brexit) but another - a second independence referendum.

The two questions effectively receive the same answer - for Brexit it's "I'll get a deal"; for independence it's "I'll keep our precious Union together".

It's enough to get a cheer at a Scottish Tory gathering, but only because they're too afraid to ask the follow-up question: "How?".

I took away two interesting points. The first was Boris Johnson had several opportunities to explicitly rule out Indyref2, but didn't take them.

Second, and conversely, Jeremy Hunt appeared to suggest he may refuse a second referendum even if the SNP returns a majority based on a clear manifesto commitment in 2021.

In a reversal of the received wisdom, that dichotomy indicates Johnson, not Hunt, is the one who has thought this through.

This was not a good night for the Scottish Tories, because there are no good nights for the Scottish Tories at the moment.

The Westminster end of the party look, feel and act like they don't understand Scotland or the Scottish party.

Actually, it doesn't matter. The Scottish membership is a tiny part of the electorate here.

And this election isn't about Scotland and the Union. It's about England, and Brexit. Andy Maciver is a director of Message Matters and former head of communications for the Scottish Tories

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Publication:The Sunday Post (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Date:Jul 7, 2019
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