Ruth Davidson has drawn up a secret list of Conservative target seats for this year’s general election and is aiming to take out the SNP’s Westminster leader.
The Scottish leader predicted her party will return more MPs north of the border than just Scottish Secretary David Mundell in June’s snap election and The Press and Journal can reveal the constituencies the Scottish leader sees as winnable – including Moray.
Senior Tory sources are hopeful of securing the seat of Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster and Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy in the party, who recorded a majority of more than 9,000 less than two years ago.
Despite the exceptional swing required, strategists believe the fact the constituency came as close as anywhere in Scotland to voting for Brexit could put it in play.
Douglas Ross, a Highlands and Islands MSP and football referee, is understood to be favoured as the Conservative candidate. He declined to comment.
An SNP source said: “You’d think three jobs would be enough for linesman Douglas Ross. The people of Moray will take a dim view of him angling for a 4th.”
Ms Davidson was bullish about the prospect of defying expectations during a press conference yesterday.
She said: “There are a lot of areas where there is a very, very strong Conservative vote for us to build on and an even stronger pro-UK vote, places like Angus for example which had a very strong pro-UK vote.
“If you are talking about Angus Robertson, if the argument and the line from the SNP at this general election is going to be talking about Brexit as much as they can, well 49.6% of his seat voted to leave. My strong prediction, and I seldom make predictions, is there is no way the SNP is getting 56 this time.”
In the north-east, fertile ground for the Conservatives in last year’s Holyrood election, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine is seen as winnable. Stuart Donaldson holds a 7,033 majority but Alexander Burnett claimed it for the Tories in the Scottish Parliament.
Meanwhile, it is also understood Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chairman Bertie Armstrong was asked to stand in Banff and Buchan but declined.
Elsewhere, senior Tory sources are hopeful of securing a so-called “blue band” across the border between Scotland and England by adding Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and Dumfries and Galloway to Mr Mundell’s Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale seat.
John Lamont, the chief whip at Holyrood, is understood to be the favourite to stand for the Berwickshire seat, having missed out by just 328 votes in 2015.