David Torrance: Mutual respect is crucial as Tories bid to govern Scotland

Exactly what sort of politician is David Mundell, the man likely to be next Secretary of State for Scotland?

The personal and political background of David Mundell, the 47-year-old MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, is not that of your average Conservative cabinet minister.

Raised in a single-parent family in Newton Wamphray and educated at Lockerbie Academy, Mundell joined the Young Conservatives aged 14 but defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) while studying law in 1981.

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"The first Thatcher government did get a bit bogged down and it wasn't really the radical government that subsequently emerged," he explained in 2002. "And the fact that you had a completely new opportunity to wipe the slate clean, with no baggage, was a very attractive thing".

Indeed, Mundell lacks any ideological baggage, nor is he a tribal politician who thinks the Conservative Party has a monopoly on good ideas. His admirers praise him as a pragmatist and a subtle but shrewd tactician.

In 1984 he was elected Scotland's youngest serving district councillor while forging a legal career with BT Scotland. Although he did not exactly shine as an MSP between 1999-2005, Mundell thrived in the mercurial world of Westminster from 2005 and struck up a good rapport with David Cameron. Usefully, he also backed Cameron's leadership bid before his game-changing 2005 conference speech.

Mundell is not a political showman, and his internal party critics say he is "not up to the job" of Scottish Secretary. But his better-than-expected performance during the election campaign has helped consolidate his position, his campaigning abilities evidenced by his trend-busting increased majority on Thursday night.

The new Scottish Secretary is an accredited mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolution, which could come in handy over the next few months. He is also known, for reasons not altogether clear, as "Fluffy".

Will a Conservative government implement the Calman Commission's recommendations on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament?

In short, yes. Mundell made it clear some months ago that an incoming Conservative government would "not be bound" by Labour's White Paper on devolving more functions, including fiscal powers, to Holyrood. But the party's objection to Labour's proposals was more practical than philosophical, and once it has been squared with the Treasury a new White Paper will be published in advance of next year's Holyrood elections.

Importantly, Cameron, shadow chancellor George Osborne and Philip Hammond, set to be chief secretary to the Treasury, all accept the need for greater fiscal autonomy, not least because it fits in with the party's broader policy of decentralisation. Steve Hilton, Cameron's "guru", is also supportive, as is George Bridges, another influential adviser. The Conservatives on both a tactical and philosophical basis have embraced Calman.

Usefully, speedy implementation of Calman enjoys cross-party support in Scotland, with the exception of the SNP. Given that Cameron and Mundell have made it clear that they will not introduce any Scotland-only legislation that does not have such support, then an early Calman Bill would present no difficulty for a government, even a minority one.

"The election result confirms my prognosis that we have to go further and faster in terms of devolution," said a senior Conservative MSP this weekend. "I'm not saying it will solve all of our problems but it might take the sting out of the tail as far as the Conservative position in Scotland is concerned." There are, however, also Tory MSPs who are deeply hostile to Calman's recommendations.

Interestingly, the party did consider the "nuclear option" of backing a referendum on independence shortly after the general election. But extensive internal polling revealed that Conservative voters did not want their party initiating something which they, and it, did not actually want to happen.

What will the Tories will do about the Barnett formula and English griping about Scotland?

The Barnett formula is a political Pandora's box so in the short term the Conservatives will leave well alone.

In the longer term, however, they plan to commission a needs-based assessment, which will then form the basis of a new funding system for the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

Although Alex Salmond and the SNP are strongly opposed to any such review, claiming it will result in a "Cameron cut" in the cash coming to Scotland, Plaid Cymru is in favour, believing that the principality loses out under the current set-up. The Conservatives are keen to emphasise that there are also funding disparities within England which need to be addressed.

Barnett is like a red rag to some English Conservative backbenchers (a recent Institute for Public Policy Research survey suggested a majority wanted it scrapped).

They genuinely believe that Scots are, in Nigel Lawson's phrase, "subsidy junkies", and will put Cameron under intense pressure to cut public spending in Scotland, particularly when cuts start to bite in the south.

Cameron, most likely, will repeatedly stress that "we're all in this together".

This year's Scottish budget, meanwhile, will be protected, under a pre-election commitment from Osborne. This will only delay the problem of spending cuts, which the SNP, will fight tooth and nail, meanwhile positioning itself as Scotland's defender in the face of an "anti-Scottish" Tory government at Westminster.

How will the Tories answer questions about their Scottish mandate, with only one MP?

Even when the party had between ten and 22 MPs north of the Border in the 1980s and 1990s, the argument that the Tories had no mandate to govern was a staple of Scottish politics. Now they have just one (a showing unchanged since 2001), the cries will no doubt be revived, most vociferously by the SNP.

Given that a Scottish Parliament has now existed for more than a decade, the charge will lack the resonance it had 20 years ago.

Importantly, there are signs that the Labour Party in Scotland will not go down this route. On election night its leader, Iain Gray, firmly rejected it as an issue.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, will emphasise that they are a British government elected following a British general election, while reminding the SNP that Scotland voted overwhelmingly for "Unionist parties".

What's different from the 1990s," said a senior Tory, "is that the Scottish Parliament is here, it's here to stay, and it's entitled to take forward the issues for which it has responsibility. A Conservative government would not interfere with that."

So-called "English Votes for English Laws" is another aspect of what is likely to be a strained relationship between England and Scotland. Although the Conservative manifesto did not go into detail, legislation that applies only to England and Wales will only be considered by MPs representing those nations. This, however, potentially disenfranchises 41 Labour MPs in Scotland.

How will the Tories deal with Alex Salmond's administration?

With care, and an attempt at charm. As part of the "mutual respect" agenda fashioned by Mundell, David Cameron will meet Alex Salmond during his first week as prime minister. The Scotland Office will probably augment its Secretary of State (Mundell) with a junior minister, perhaps shared with another department, as was the case with Labour MP David Cairns under the previous administration.

Although Mundell does not have a warm relationship with Salmond (few opposition politicians do), he believes he can do business with him. Pre-existing dialogues with other Scottish Government ministers will ensure that inter-governmental relations do not grind to a halt. The Tories have also worked effectively with the Nationalists at Holyrood, and they will hope to build on this. Perhaps even more important will be the working relationship Mundell builds with the Scottish Labour Party.

Crucially, the two parties are now singing from the same constitutional hymn sheet (never the case in the 80s and 90s) and Mundell claims a good relationship with both Gray and Jim Murphy, his predecessor as Scottish Secretary. Tactically, Labour and the Conservatives realise that the Nationalists are the main enemy.

"Labour are now in a position to shake the dynamic because of the level of support they have in Scotland," said a Tory source. "They can't afford to give succour to Alex Salmond at the very moment he's down."

None of this, however, means that Mundell has an easy task, although he remains remarkably optimistic.

He believes that a Tory government, even a minority one, will "be the crossing of the Rubicon for Conservative support in Scotland".

Once it demonstrates that it can govern Scotland with respect, his analysis runs, "people in Scotland will see that and that will consolidate our support in the medium to longer term".