THE Scottish Conservatives have been accused of publishing “misleading” figures about their battle with the SNP in this week’s council elections.

Douglas Ross and his party have also been urging people to “maximise the pro-UK vote” by backing their party – something which polling experts have also criticised.

On Tuesday, two days ahead of the elections, the Scottish Tories tweeted: “If the pro-UK vote sticks together, just like last year, we can beat the SNP.

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“On Thursday, vote for the @ScotTories to remove the SNP from power across Scotland and get all of the focus onto your local priorities. #LocalVoteTory.”

They accompanied the message with a graphic which showed the Tory vote was larger than the SNP one. However, small print made clear they were comparing the list vote for the Conservatives in the 2021 Holyrood elections against the number of first preference votes for the SNP at the council elections in 2017.

Using this comparison, the graphic said the Tories had 637,131 votes compared to the SNP’s 610,454.

Pollster Mark McGeoghegan told The National that the party’s use of “raw numbers inflates the Conservative vote because of the higher turnout in Holyrood elections”.

He went on: “The Conservatives’ numbers are misleading. Local elections have lower turnout than national, Holyrood elections, so the raw numbers can be larger even if the vote share isn't.

“In reality, the Conservatives' 23.5% of the Holyrood list vote in 2021 is much smaller than the SNP's 32.3% of first preferences in the 2017 local elections.”

He further questioned the message of voting for pro-Union parties “just like last year” in order to beat the SNP.

McGeoghegan said: "In largely proportional voting systems like Single Transferable Vote, tactical voting generally isn't effective. Typically, each major party's share of councillors ends up being roughly the same as their share of first preference votes nationally.

“It doesn't matter if Unionist voters support the Conservatives or Labour, the SNP will win the same number of councillors.”

A Scottish Tory spokesperson said: “This graphic is perfectly clear. Every figure is accurately attributed. We have clearly marked which elections we are referring to with each number."