Boris Johnson will not be travelling north to campaign with the Scottish Conservatives ahead of the Holyrood election, it has been confirmed.
Party leader Douglas Ross said he had spoken to the prime minister and did not expect to see him in Scotland before the vote.
The remarks, made to journalists as the Scottish Tories outlined their manifesto, followed doubts about Mr Johnson’s plans.
Mr Ross would not be drawn on whether the the prime minister was staying away because he was viewed as an electoral liability, however.
He said: “I spoke to him last night. He is absolutely behind our efforts here in Scotland to stop the SNP majority, to focus on recovery but, to answer your question, I don’t expect to see him before the election on May 6.”
Mr Ross was also asked about recent comments made by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who described the Moray MP as a “dark” force in politics and, in an interview with The Courier editor David Clegg, claimed he undermines the Unionist cause with his approach.
“In terms of Willie Rennie’s comments, I’m going to focus on policies not personalities,” Mr Ross said.
“I can understand if you are the leader of the smallest political party in the Scottish Parliament you’ve got to seek to try to grab headlines some way.
“I’m going to focus on our positive, ambitious plans for the Scottish Parliament over the next five years, and to delivering for Scotland over the next five years.”
To boldly go…
One of the proposals in the Conservative manifesto is to create new enterprise agencies for every region of Scotland.
Mr Ross said the bodies would be similar to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), but also learn lessons from its mistakes.
“We would look at good practice from the established enterprise bodies,” he said.
“Do I think everything HIE has done has been perfect? No.
“I think people looking at the funicular railway will see serious issues that happened with that, and there are many questions that still need to be answered.
“But there has also been some excellent work by HIE. I’ve seen it in Moray. They were part of our recovery campaign when RAF Kinloss closed and became an Army barracks.
“And, just from my experience as a local MP, they’ve been really heavily involved in trying to support businesses during the pandemic, and getting the support they need.
“So it is looking at that model and it’s looking to expand that across Scotland but also looking to ensure if there are issues, we don’t repeat them with new enterprise agencies.”
Mr Ross, meanwhile, received the backing of Angus South candidate and former MSP Maurice Golden.
In an interview with David Mac Dougall on Election Hub Live, he was asked if his party leader would have to resign if the Conservatives slump to third place behind Labour next month.
“I have full support for Douglas Ross and I’m delighted he is our leader,” he said.
“As someone based in a rural area, rural constituency, that is very important when you have a central belt bias from the SNP.”
Mr Golden also said he is taking inspiration from the party’s 2016 result in the north-east.
“We’ll see what the people decide, at the end of the day. We’re committed to rebuilding Scotland, to ensuring full employment for the people of Scotland, and I think that is a very positive message to go out for,” he said.
“We’ll find out in just over three weeks’ time how that has all transpired but if you look at what happened in 2016, we went from 15 to 31 MSPs, so one thing I do know is that politics is an unpredictable business and you never know what might happen.
“Indeed, in the north-east of Scotland all 10 of our candidates at that election ended up in Holyrood, so it’s an interesting business and one that is very difficult to predict.”