DOUGLAS Ross has said he believes the Scottish Tories will “make gains” at the next General Election and it is “up to other parties” to back tactical voting to oust the SNP.

The Scottish Tory leader, in a lengthy interview with Holyrood magazine, again rowed back on comments he had made in a previous interview where he suggested voters should rally around the pro-Union candidate at the ballot box.

The suggestion prompted fury amongst Ross’s Tory colleagues south of the Border, who said they “emphatically” rejected the tactical voting bid.

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Electoral Calculus, the political forecasting website which focuses on General Elections, predicts that Ross’s party will return the same number of MPs at the next UK-wide ballot box as they currently have - six.

And UK-wide, the Tories are set to see their majority decimated, with the website calculating the ruling party could plunge from 365 seats to 113. It follows a trend amongst pollsters showing a boost to Labour support, while the Tories numbers nosedive. 

It comes after repeated sleaze scandals, the resignations of two Tory prime ministers, as well as the economic damage reaped by Truss's mini-budget - amongst many other reports of misconduct amongst the Tory ranks. 

However, Ross insisted that what he said didn’t “marry up with the headline” and that he would always encourage Scottish Tory voters to back his party’s candidates.

The National: Ross said he believes the Scottish Tories will 'make gains' at the next UK-wide electionRoss said he believes the Scottish Tories will 'make gains' at the next UK-wide election

“I don’t run these things past the party down south,” Ross said.

“I have had discussions with the PM on this and I had a regular catch-up with Greg Hands [party chair] about how things are going in England and the party understands the strategy in Scotland will be different as will the strategy in Wales as it will be in England.

“I think we can make gains in Scotland and given the party has a 70 or so seat majority at Westminster, a lot of what the UK party is doing is defending what we already have and will be fighting Labour for every seat.

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“We are doing the same here but there are areas in Scotland where Labour and Lib Dems are not in contention and they can help us take the seat from the SNP and not only helps representation in the area move away from independence but also send a strong message in Scotland that we want to move on from the division we have seen for too long in our politics.”

Ross admitted that he himself is a “beneficiary of tactical voting” and pro-Union voters uniting behind one candidate.

“I stood in Moray a number of times in 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2016 and always managed to come second but never quite win the seat,” he told the magazine.

“But in 2017 we were able to persuade people that might normally vote Labour or LibDem that if they united behind me we had a chance of beating the SNP.

“People thought that was impossible, Angus Robertson was a well-known politician, he was SNP Westminster Group leader, he had two PMQs every week, so it was going to take something significant to unseat him but we did it and I retained the seat in 2019 and that result was replicated in many parts of the country when we returned 13 Scottish Conservative MPs.

“I am simply saying what I have said before that there are many seats across Scotland where the Conservatives are the best-placed party to beat the SNP and if voters want to remove the SNP in their area then we are the best party to get behind to do that.

“I have never said that voters should vote for another party other than mine, no party leader would say that, what I have said is that it is up to other parties to work out how they fight campaigns in the seats they are targeting, what I am saying is in seats where we are the best challengers to the SNP, we can make a big difference in this election and bring much needed change to Scotland.”

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Ross told the Telegraph last week: “I think generally the public can see and they want the parties to accept that where there is [the] strongest candidate to beat the SNP you get behind that candidate.

“If parties maybe look beyond their own narrow party agenda and do what’s best for the country and for me as Scottish Conservative leader what would be best is if we see this grip that the SNP have on Scotland at the moment is loosened.”

A UK Tory spokesman said at the time: “This is emphatically not the view of the Conservative Party.”