RISHI Sunak must have been praying for some fresh news headlines over the weekend.

Anything to help dampen down the furious response to him ducking out of those D-Day commemorations early. Anything at all.

The Sunday Mail was happy to oblige, exposing concerns about expenses claims of multi-tasker Douglas Ross. It appears the story was triggered by outrage within the ranks of the Scottish Tories at his antics the previous week and the resulting pressure was enough to cause the branch manager to snap. So now the PM is fighting two ferocious topical fires, one on each side of the Border. Be careful what you wish for, Rishi!

It’s the perfect combination – a Scottish story that is so significant and ridiculous that it will generate UK-wide headlines, but that most people in England will not give a damn about.

Indeed, most of them wouldn’t be able to tell you who Douglas Ross and David Duguid are, and will likely be incensed that these irrelevant D-words are taking up interview time that could otherwise be used to scold the PM for disrespecting veterans.

The news that Douglas Ross was resigning was inevitably met with confusion about which of his four jobs he would be stepping away from. Given he announced in 2021 that he would not be standing in the next General Election, you would be forgiven for thinking he was (still) quitting as an MP.

READ MORE: Tory candidate set to replace Douglas Ross as MSP lives in London

But no – do keep up – he declared last week he was un-quitting as an MP, subject to the approval of voters in the new constituency of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. This came as a nasty surprise to Duguid who – boundary tweaks aside – had been the MP).

Duguid was admitted to hospital in April and spent four weeks in intensive care but is now, happily, on the road to recovery. Instead of buying him a get well soon card, it seems senior figures in the party headed to the “sorry you’re leaving” section instead.

In a complete reversal of the process one would tend to associate with Conservatives, it appears they declared Duguid unfit to work without even assessing him, thereby blocking him from standing, and then slotted Ross into the new vacancy.

Somehow they imagined everyone would be OK with this. Perhaps they even imagined Duguid would go quietly, and not bother challenging claims that he remained seriously ill. It’s never a good look for a politician to stab one of their own colleagues in the back, but it’s particularly jaw-dropping when that person is recovering from a serious spinal illness, of all things.

It seems they did not bank on the former Scotland Office minister practising what his party preaches, by asserting that physical limitations should not rule him out of re-entering the workforce and specifically the House of Commons.

Duguid took to X/Twitter on Saturday to report that he was “making great progress daily” and getting out and about within the hospital with the help of a wheelchair. Reports of his incapability, he suggests, have been greatly exaggerated.

Incredibly, Ross has insisted he had “absolutely nothing to do with” the decision to effectively deselect Duguid. How fortunate, then, that the management board figures (whose members include Ross) were able to twist his arm and persuade him to stand in Duguid’s place.

On Thursday Ross told the hastily assembled media that he had “thought long and hard” about what to do, before declaring his intention to “lead from the front”.

Clearly he didn’t have long enough to think about whether someone might talk to a reporter about the Westminster expenses claims that his own team had described as “dodgy”.

It seems there were concerns that it might look like he was using taxpayer-funded journeys to ferry himself to football matches where he was working as a referee, rather than simply travel home to his constituency. Who would have guessed that someone in his inner circle had principles, and might stand up against shabby treatment of an ill colleague?

READ MORE: SNP urge Douglas Ross to make urgent statement to Holyrood

In fairness to Ross, it must be a nightmare trying to fit everything in. It goes without saying that he won’t be quitting the most important of his jobs – watching men kicking a ball about and blowing a little whistle.

Under pressure to explain the expenses, Ross insisted they had all been approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Before we had much time to ponder why said body would approve £58 worth of parking at Inverness airport while parliament was in recess, along came another big announcement: Ross was quitting!

Not as an MP, not as a referee, not even as an (alleged) expenses-fiddler, but as leader of the Scottish Tories. Tonight's Scottish leaders debate on the BBC will certainly make for fun viewing.

The man who just days ago vowed to “lead from the front” is planning to skulk off to the Holyrood back benches after the election. He says that if he wins a Westminster seat he’ll quit Holyrood altogether in order to concentrate on his most important job (and the MP role that helps to fund it). But let’s not hold our breath. He might have changed his mind again by next week.