SENIOR Scottish Tories previously hostile to a Boris Johnson premiership are reportedly softening their position.

Last year Scottish members of the party were at the heart of a campaign, nicknamed “Operation Arse”, to prevent the former foreign secretary becoming party leader. At the time, private polling indicated Johnson had abysmal approval ratings in Scotland.

Some senior Scottish Tories remain of the view that Johnson as prime minister would be “a gift to the SNP” and potentially the midwife of independence, with many liberal voters switching to the “Yes” side.

However, with polls suggesting a dismal result for the Tories in this week’s European elections, with many Leave voters switching to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, some Scottish Tory parliamentarians believe Johnson – the favourite of the Tory grassroots – is their best hope.

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Over the weekend comments about Johnson by Scottish Secretary David Mundell suggested his own previous criticisms of Johnson’s were diminishing.

At the Tory party conference last October, Mundell said Johnson was not “an asset” to the party and accused his former Cabinet colleague of trying to create “a maximum amount of distraction and headlines for himself”.

A few months later he suggested he could not serve in Johnson Cabinet.

Asked in December if he would remain in the Cabinet if Johnson replaced May in No 10, the Scottish Secretary said: “Given my views about Mr Johnson, which are well known, that would be extremely difficult.

The National:

He added: “Mr Johnson and I don’t agree on a whole range of issues and I don’t see myself being able to serve in that way.”

But at the end of last week Mundell appeared to have changed his mind, accusing the SNP of demonising Johnson.

He told The Herald: “I’m not accepting this nationalist demonising of him...”

The paper also reported that the Scottish Secretary has not ruled himself out of serving in a Johnson Cabinet.

With Johnson favourite for the Tory leadership, one Conservative MSP said he would give the party a better chance of holding onto its Scottish seats.

“He would be able to win back any votes lost to Farage over Brexit,” the MSP told the Sunday Times.

Another Tory MSP insisted, however: “Boris would be a gift to the SNP.”

Others say Johnson’s election would cause difficulties for Davidson, who has had a strained relationship with him.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged Scottish Tories will quiz Johnson on his pro-Union credentials as part of his bids to replace Theresa May.

The Mail on Sunday reported that there are plans to test all the candidates for No 10 on how they would oppose independence.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove is also expected to stand. Fellow Scot, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, has already thrown his hat into the ring.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has yet to back a candidate but invited Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid to speak at the recent Scottish Tory conference. She did not invite Johnson.