The Press and Journal can reveal that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will declare independence from her UK party if Boris Johnson becomes its leader.
David Cameron has already said he will not fight a third election as Tory leader but some at Westminster are predicting a coup in the aftermath of Thursday’s EU referendum, particularly if there is a Leave vote.
Mr Johnson is seen as a strong contender to replace him as prime minister, a scenario which is causing such concern in the Scottish leadership that plans are being drawn up to go solo in a move mirroring the campaign tactic of Murdo Fraser.
The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP was defeated in the 2011 contest to take charge of the party after proposing the Scottish Conservatives have “no future” and must be replaced with a new right wing party.
Such radical action is now being contemplated by Ms Davidson, who saw off Mr Fraser’s challenge five years ago and guided the Tories to second place in May’s Holyrood election, as she prepares for her televised showdown on the EU referendum with the former London mayor tonight.
A source close to the Edinburgh Central MSP said: “If Boris becomes leader we’ll do a Murdo. We’ll have to break off.”
Supporters of Mr Fraser’s plan last night argued that forming a new party would be the “next logical step” for Ms Davidson, whether Mr Johnson entering Downing Street or another factor was the catalyst.
Party insiders said she had distanced the Scottish party from the UK Tories in several key policy areas and they campaigned in the recent Holyrood election under the banner “Ruth Davidson for a strong opposition” rather than the Conservative name.
There is no love lost between Ms Davidson and Mr Johnson, which is likely to make for a lively event at Wembley for both those in the stadium and the anticipated TV audience of millions.
Ms Davidson savaged her opponent in an article for a tabloid newspaper as she argued a Leave vote would be “a conscious decision to make Britain poorer” which “would hurt the poorest the most”.
She added: “Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would be ok – the wealthy are always able to fall back on their pension pots and savings.
“It would be ordinary workers who would suffer – the easyJet air hostess who could lose her job because, after Brexit, the airline would be priced out from flying within Europe.
“The dad on the factory floor at one of our many car-makers whose job disappears because Europe has slapped a new tariff on British-made motors.
“The single mum on a zero-hours contract whose job is extinguished to cut costs.”
She also compared Mr Johnson and Ukip leader Mr Farage’s Leave strategy to the “brazen chauvinistic style of (Alex) Salmond – this time repeated for a UK audience”.
Mr Johnson will lead a three-person team arguing for Brexit alongside Labour MP Gisela Stuart and Tory energy minister Andrea Leadsom.
The event, on BBC One at 8pm, will pit them against Ms Davidson, Sadiq Khan, the Labour London mayor, and Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress.