THE Scottish Conservatives are to hold their next conference in the north-east for the first time in a generation as they target the region ahead of the Holyrood election in 2021 and revisit tensions over Europe.

The Tories yesterday announced their 2018 spring conference would be held in Aberdeen’s exhibition and conference centre, one of the SNP’s traditional venues. Delegates will gather for two days on March 2 and 3 and Theresa May is expected to give a keynote address.

The last time the party gathered in the Granite City was in 1996, in the days before devolution when former prime minister John Major addressed conference-goers.

But, more than two decades on, it could be a case of “the more things change the more they stay the same” for the Tories.

Echoing existing splits in Theresa May’s government over future relations with the European Union, Major used his keynote speech 22 years ago to warn about splits in the party over Europe.

He told his warring party that if it didn’t leave divisions over Europe aside it would lose the next election – which it did to Labour under Tony Blair. The party also lost all 11 Westminster seats held by the Tories in Scotland and came third behind Labour and the SNP at the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Since then, the Scottish Conservatives have bounced back in the north-east, winning six constituency seats at June’s snap general election in the region, taking SNP constituencies of Gordon, held by former First Minister Alex Salmond, and Moray, held by SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson.

The Tories also took Aberdeen South, Angus, Banff and Buchan, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. The party also has five MSPs – including a constituency MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, following the 2016 Holyrood election.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson described her party’s election results in the area as “spectacular” over the last two years.

“We now have six MPs, five MSPs and are in administration in both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils,” she said.

“So, it is fitting, as we train our sights on 2021, that our Spring conference will be held in the Granite City.

“We can use our success in this area as a springboard towards the next election.”

Colin Clark, Scottish Conservative MP for Gordon, said: “Since June’s election, our MPs have delivered for this area by ensuring the Chancellor agreed tax changes for the oil and gas industry that will unlock billions in new investment in the North Sea.”

The SNP has yet to reveal the venue and the date for its Spring conference.