The SNP has been accused of “running scared” of Scottish voters in the general election after a Nationalist MP pleaded with the pro-independence Greens not to stand candidates in seats the Tories are targeting.
Tommy Sheppard, the Edinburgh East MP, said the Scottish Greens should be "mindful of not splitting the pro-Yes vote and certainly not splitting the anti-Tory vote".
In a further extraordinary move, two SNP MPs who face a surge in Conservative support in their seats signed a petition supporting the UK pulling out of the EU and the hated Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Despite the Nationalists’ official policy being in favour of remaining in both, Eilidh Whiteford and Mike Weir added their names to a pledge tabled by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that stated that Brexit presented the industry with a “sea of opportunity.”
Dr Whiteford is the MP for Banff and Buchan, which includes the major fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead and was one of the few areas of Scotland that voted for Brexit.
Mr Weir has an 11,230 majority in Angus but it was formerly a Conservative stronghold and the Tories are confident of making major gains.
Their interventions followed a series of opinion polls showing a surge in support for the Tories that could see them take a dozen seats, including 10 from the Nationalists.
Somebody's getting nervous.... https://t.co/IcpGyomUpu— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) April 26, 2017
Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens’ co-convener, suggested last week the party may not stand candidates in some seats to try and produce a Tory wipe-out north of the Border.
But Ross Thomson, the Scottish Tory candidate for Aberdeen South, said: “The Greens have to put up or shut up. They can’t pretend to be a proper party while sitting this election out and begging its voters to back someone else.
“It’s also very telling that the SNP has taken this step. It shows the party is rattled and running scared, and its MPs right across Scotland are terrified of losing their seats.”
Mr Sheppard told the independence-supporting National newspaper that he did not believe the Greens should stand in Edinburgh South, which is currently held by Ian Murray, Scottish Labour's only MP, arguing it was a three-way fight with the SNP and Tories.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is to invite candidates in all 650 constituencies to sign the pledge, which states: “Brexit offers a ‘Sea of Opportunity’ for fishing communities the length and breadth of the country as it will allow us to restore control of our waters, which are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.”
Peter Chapman, the Scottish Tories’ rural affairs spokesman, said the SNP was in “complete turmoil” over its stance on the EU and the CFP and the two MPs had signed the petition in a “desperate attempt to win back support of fishermen in the North East.”
Dr Whiteford told the Dundee Courier the SNP’s policy “has always been consistent” in its opposition to CFP. She added: “It’s absolutely critically important the fishing industry is not sold out on the way out of the EU as it was on the way in.”
An SNP spokesman said: “The SNP will always stand up for Scotland’s industries and are committed to making sure that when it comes to Scotland’s fisheries we have a seat at the top table rather than relying on the Tories – who described Scotland’s fishing industry as “expendable”.
A Scottish Greens spokesman said the party is focused on fighting next week’s council elections and decisions about which Westminster constituencies to contest will be made afterwards by local branches.