THE SNP have warned of a growing “Thatcher threat” to Scotland with the Tory leadership race lurching “even further to the right”.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are attempting to “out-Thatcher Thatcher” as they battle for the keys to Downing Street, the party’s Westminster leader has said.

SNP MP Ian Blackford said Scotland still “bears the scars” of the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister, such as being used as a “guinea pig” for the poll tax in the late 1980s.

During the leadership race, Sunak has emphasised his “Thatcherite values”.

In one interview, he said: “I believe in hard work, family and integrity. I am a Thatcherite, I’m running as a Thatcherite, and I’ll govern as a Thatcherite.”

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Yesterday, Sunak chose Grantham, the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, for a speech to kickstart his campaign to win over Tory members – which was heavy on warnings about the dangers of inflation and the need for a new “radicalism” in government.

He laughed when pressed on whether the choice of location was a coincidence, telling reporters he believes what he is proposing is “common sense Thatcherism”.

Both candidates are seemingly bidding to claim the mantle of the Tory grandee.

Truss has denied she is modelling herself on Thatcher, saying it was “frustrating” that female politicians “always get compared” to the first female prime minister.

However, she appeared in the first televised leadership debate wearing a pussy-bow style of blouse – which was favoured by Thatcher – and posed on a tank during a visit to Estonia last year – echoing a famous picture of the 1980s Tory leader.

She also has named Patrick Minford as a leading economist who agrees with her stance on bringing in immediate multi-billion pound tax cuts. He came to prominence as an adviser to Thatcher, and has suggested interest rates would have to rise to as high as seven per cent to allow tax cuts.

Blackford said: “The continuity candidates will both be a disaster for Scotland – with yet another Tory prime minister, elected only by Tory members, forced upon Scotland against our will.

“While households struggle to make ends meet as the Tory-made cost of living crisis spirals out of control, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are more focused on trying to out-Thatcher Thatcher. 

“Scotland still bears the scars of Thatcher’s damaging policies – which hammered Scotland and increased inequality in the UK to levels that have never been reversed.

“The former chancellor’s remarks that he will govern just like Thatcher might get right-wing Tory backbenchers excited, but it will send alarm bells ringing across Scotland. People don’t forget that Scotland was also used as a guinea pig for the poll tax.”

Tax cuts have dominated discussion in the Conservative leadership contest so far, with Sunak promising to deliver tax cuts after inflation is brought under control.

Truss has pledged a raft of immediate cuts, claiming it will “decrease inflation”.

But experts have raised concerns over tax cuts that would benefit those at the top without boosting economic growth.

The National: Undated file photos of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak who have made it through to the final two in the Tory leadership race, with Penny Mordaunt eliminated from the contest after the final round of voting by MPs. Picture: PA Wire

Last week, George Dibb, head of the centre for economic justice at the Institute for Public Policy Research, warned of austerity cuts if either Sunak or Truss win.

He said: “Shrinking the tax revenue needed for day-to-day spending, when inflation is shrinking departmental budgets, when public services are already cut to the bone, it’s certainly concerning.”

Blackford added: “As the toxic Tory leadership race lurches even further to the right, the widening democratic deficit threatening Scotland could not be clearer.

“Whoever wins this leadership contest, Scotland will lose.

“Tory tax cuts for the rich, another round of devastating Tory austerity, an extreme Brexit that will hammer our economy and businesses, and damaging policies that will continue to push people into poverty and hardship.

“The only way to keep Scotland safe from the damage of Tory cuts is to become an independent country, with the full powers needed to build a fairer and more equal future.”