THE Scottish Conservatives are the “best bet” for unionist voters seeking to defeat the SNP in the general election, leader Ruth Davidson has said.
While she insisted she has never been a “particular proponent” of tactical voting, Ms Davidson said her party is better-placed than Labour or the Liberal Democrats to steal seats from the nationalists, insisting there is “no way the SNP is getting 56 this time”.
SNP depute leader Angus Robertson has said the June 8 ballot announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday will be a “two-horse race in Scotland between the SNP and the Tories”, with the issue of another independence referendum expected to feature heavily in the campaign.
Ms Davidson said: “I think that it is certainly the case that we are the strongest party to take on the SNP and I know that there was a lot of talk at the general election a couple of years ago about tactical voting, and I’ve never been a particular proponent of it.
“But I think if you do believe in tactical voting and and if your principal belief (is in) keeping the United Kingdom together and respecting the decision that we made in 2014, actually your vote is for the Scottish Conservatives.
“If you’re not supporting the SNP and you want someone to stop their drive to break up Scotland, then the Scottish Conservatives are your best bet.”
The Tory leader said the party had put a plan in place last year in the event of a snap election and expects to have all its Scottish candidates in place within one to two weeks.
Around three to four Tory MSPs could stand but there is no “mass rush” from the Holyrood group, Ms Davidson said.
“We will be running a completely distinct campaign,” she said.
“I am in charge of our candidate selection, our manifesto. I am in charge of our campaigns, our budgets, our targeting, our ground troops. This is my election.”
Ms Davidson commented on the general election as she launched the manifesto for the local government elections taking place on May 4.
While the party will run a separate campaign for the two ballots, its message of opposition to a second independence referendum will be prominent in both.
The Tory leader said the council elections will also provide an indication of the parties’ standings going into the general election.
“There is going to be something that is bigger than any poll conducted, there’s going to be a local government election vote, and I think you’ll see our vote go up,” she said.
“That’ll give us a springboard into the general election in June.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already accused the Prime Minister of calling the snap vote to seek to make the UK more right-wing and “force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts”.
Theresa May argued a ballot needed to be held because of “division” at Westminster over Brexit.
Ms Davidson said: “I think if the Prime Minister is returned with a healthier majority it gives her the freedom to make decisions in the best interests of the country without having to pay a penalty in terms of people either within the Conservative Party or outwith trying to put undue pressure on her.”
She added: “I think when you see the UK party manifesto which will be brought out within the next three weeks … you will see a very centre-right document that has issues that we have already seen matter a huge deal to the Prime Minister, issues on fair working practices, issues around situations like modern slavery, issues that I think would be very hard for Nicola Sturgeon to suggest is the Conservative Party moving to the right.
“The plan for Brexit will be in there (the manifesto) but it will be very much in line with what has already been put out there.”
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