Sunak claims Tories will win more seats in Scotland despite poll slump

Rishi Sunak delivered an upbeat message to Scottish Tories in Aberdee
Rishi Sunak delivered an upbeat message to Scottish Tories in Aberdee - JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY

The Tories expect to win more seats in Scotland in the general election, the Prime Minister has said, despite a poll showing public support has slumped to the lowest level since the Liz Truss premiership.

Rishi Sunak said “we expect to gain when it comes to Scotland” and argued the poll was “not reflective of what we’re hearing on the ground”.

He highlighted recent council by-election results, which have shown the Conservatives increasing their vote share, and argued the SNP’s “obsession with independence” was holding back Scotland.

In his keynote speech to the Scottish Tory conference in Aberdeen, he urged voters to “send the nationalists back home to think again” as he attacked the Scottish Government for its record on health, education and the economy.

Douglas Ross will use his address to conference on Saturday morning to urge pro-UK voters to unite behind his party in key seats to “shove Humza Yousaf out of the door”, claiming the first minister’s “days in offices are numbered”.

Mr Ross will claim that “the knives are being sharpened” within the SNP amid increasing speculation that Mr Yousaf could be replaced if nationalists get mauled in the election. Polls have indicated they could lose more than half the 48 seats they won in 2019.

In a reference to the motorhome confiscated by police investigating the SNP’s finances, he will say that if unionists vote tactically for his party “in those crucial SNP-Scottish Conservative seats, it won’t be a campervan that Humza Yousaf needs. It will be a removal van.”

Lowest support since Truss

Mr Ross will also unveil his party’s five key general election pledges: repairing and upgrading key roads; recruiting 1,000 extra GPs and banning the closure of any local NHS facilities; reducing class sizes and tackling the wave of violence in schools; putting 1,000 extra police officers on the streets; and cutting taxes for “hard-pressed Scots”.

A poll this week put support for the Scottish Conservatives for the forthcoming general election at 15 per cent – a down one point from January and a level last recorded by the same pollster in Sept 2022.

Despite the decline, Tory strategists believe they can still make gains in constituencies where it is a straight fight between their party and the scandal-hit Nationalists.

The Telegraph disclosed this week the Tories are targeting 12 Scottish seats in the general election, the six they won in the 2019 election and six more held by the SNP.

Winning them would require Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters to vote tactically for the Tories, a move that narrowly denied Nicola Sturgeon an SNP majority at the 2021 Holyrood election.

Dismissing the poll findings, Mr Sunak told reporters: “That’s not reflective of what we’re hearing on the ground – the recent success that we’re having in council by-elections.

“I think come the election – because that’s ultimately the only one that matters – I think we expect to gain when it comes to Scotland and that’s because our message resonates.”

‘Turning the corner’

Arguing his government was “delivering for the people of Scotland”, he said: “You can see it in our plan for the economy, which is working and we’ve turned the corner at the start of this year.”

The Prime Minister said the choice facing Scots in the election was “remain stuck in a constitutional time-warp with the SNP, while schools, hospitals and the economy are neglected or act to kick out Nationalist MPs.”

Arguing that the “strongest vote you can cast against the SNP” was for the Tories, he said: “That’s the best way to end the SNP monopoly, put the constitutional debate to bed and get Scotland moving again.”

Mr Ross will tell the conference on Saturday: “If pro-UK voters want to kick the nationalists out then they need to unite behind the Scottish Conservatives in key seats. Together, we can beat the SNP and take Scotland forward.”

He will say: “Even the SNP are starting to realise that Humza Yousaf is a dud. We already pushed Nicola Sturgeon out. Now let’s use this general election to shove Humza Yousaf out the door.”

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “Rishi Sunak should have used his flying visit to apologise to families across Scotland who are skint and scunnered as a result of his Government’s appalling record of failure.”