LABOUR have rejected a tactical voting ploy which could have seen them join forces with the Tories to kick out the SNP.

Anas Sarwar's party have ruled out working in tandem with their Better Together partners to devise a "vote smart" system by which it would endorse its supporters switching loyalties to vote Tory in rural areas at the next general election.

In return, Labour would be looking for Tory voters to vote for them in the central belt.

But Jackie Baillie, Labour’s deputy leader, appeared to rule out any prospect of scheming with Douglas Ross's party.

She said: “It appears the Scottish Tories have accepted that they have lost the next General Election.

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"Scotland has two failing governments. The next general election is an opportunity to get rid of the Tories and send a message to the SNP — by voting Scottish Labour.”

A Tory insider told The Sunday Times that the party are intending to undertake the unprecedented exercise in tactical voting.

The source said the party had identified an “opportunity to end nationalist dominance” and make the SNP “pay” for ignoring Scottish priorities.

But it has been reported the proposals came as a surprise to many Tory MSPs as well as Conservative central headquarters in London, with officials fearing the plan could help Labour win the election.

One Conservative MSP told The Times the idea was a “disaster” without a deal with Labour, while another said there was scepticism in the ranks at Holyrood.

One source said while they expected the Tory vote to hold up at the General Election, tactical voting could end badly for the party in the 2026 Scottish parliamentary election.

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Stephen Kerr, the Conservative education spokesman in Holyrood, refused to answer on three occasions if the allegations of a pact were true during a BBC interview. He did, however, say he was “not aware” of any discussions between the Tories and Labour over the plans.

He then seemed to back the idea of a plan, telling the BBC: “I think it would be wrong to underestimate the sophistication of the Scottish electorate.

"I think they know exactly what they want. They know exactly how to vote.”

SNP Westminster group leader Stephen Flynn blasted the exchange and said it was a “struggle to spot the difference” between Labour and the Tories.

The SNP currently have 45 MPs at Westminster – but after a bruising leadership contest, their polling has fallen beneath 40% in several recent surveys. Labour have just one MP in Scotland.

According to a new poll by Panelbase for the Sunday Times, a Westminster election would see 39% back the SNP, Labour on 31%, the Tories on 19%.

Tactical voting in the 2021 Holyrood election led to a surge in people spreading their vote across different Unionist parties.

The Scottish Election Study found that 60% of Labour constituency voters backed the Tories in the proportional regional list, while 40% of Conservative splitters voted Labour.