Douglas Ross has suggested Labour voters could hold the key to ensuring the Tories do not lose any front-bench MSPs from the Highlands and Islands.
The Scottish Conservative leader made a pitch yesterday for Labour and other pro-UK supporters in the region to “unite” behind his party, highlighting how a “couple of hundred” votes made a difference last time.
The Tories will lose a senior MSP on May 6 unless they improve on their showing in the Highlands and Islands at the 2o16 Holyrood election, when three were elected on the list.
Mr Ross is top of the Conservative list in the region this year, followed by three incumbent MSPs: Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron and Jamie Halcro Johnston.
Mr Halcro Johnston made it to Holyrood after Mr Ross was elected to Westminster in 2017.
Mr Ross was asked if he is worried about losing senior members of the party’s front-bench, such as Mr Cameron, who was health spokesman, and Mr Halcro Johnston, who led on tourism and the rural economy.
He said: “I absolutely want Donald and Jamie and as many Scottish Conservatives to join me in Holyrood after the election, and the fact is we got three from the Highlands and Islands list last time.
“We actually came very close to getting a fourth – and if just a couple of hundred Scottish Labour voters had voted for the Scottish Conservatives, we would have had a fourth MSP in the Highlands and Islands.
“Again, that shows that when people in the Highlands and Islands are looking at their party list vote, if they want to elect MSPs which will challenge the SNP, which will stand up to the Nationalists, which will fight to stop another independence referendum, they should unite behind the Scottish Conservatives.
“In that way we can return experienced MSPs and MSPs who will stop another independence referendum and stop that SNP majority.”
As well as the regional list, Mr Cameron is standing for the Conservatives in the Argyll and Bute constituency, while Mr Halcro Johnston is the party’s candidate in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat.
Douglas Ross ‘deeply worried’
John Erskine, a Scottish Labour candidate on the Highlands and Islands list, and in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency, said: “It’s all too clear that Douglas Ross is deeply worried about losing experienced Tory MSPs in the Highlands – and not without reason.
“The people of the Highlands and Islands have borne the brunt of Tory cuts and SNP mismanagement and neglect.
“Scottish Labour is fighting this election to deliver a National Recovery Plan with the people of the Highlands and Islands at its heart.”