Tories plan ‘political earthquake’ and send indy message to SNP

THE Scottish Conservatives are aiming to double their tally of councillors in Glasgow at May’s local elections – believing that harnessing the pro-Union vote will “cause a political earthquake against the SNP” and send Nicola Sturgeon a message to hold off on tabling a second independence referendum.

Tory local government spokesman Miles Briggs has insisted his party hopes to make the most of the preference voting system at the council elections in little over two months’ time and rely on tactical unionist voting to make the Conservatives “the largest party in local government across Scotland”.

Mr Briggs has rubbished suggestions that the scandal surrounding his party at Westminster will put off voters, claiming the Tories can make gains across central Scotland.

Speaking to The Herald, Mr Briggs pointed to the Conservatives having “outperformed what people were expecting” at last year’s Holyrood election, adding that “we won 100,000 extra votes”.

He said: “The council elections are now our opportunity for unionist voters, especially across Scotland, to use that council election as an opportunity to really cause a political earthquake against the SNP.”

The Lothians MSP pointed to his party gaining 162 councillors at the 2017 local elections, while a couple more seats have been won in by-elections – adding that “there’s no ceiling set on where we want to go”.

He said: “Glasgow is a prime example of progress where we went from one councillor for almost 20 years in the city to eight. But we were right on the margin across all the other wards of getting other people elected.

“Pushing on in Glasgow, we can double again our council numbers if we can win these seats.

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“It’s going to take that unionist vote to get behind the Conservatives and they can – with a system of proportional representation – where they’re lending vote and making sure unionists vote Conservatives with their first preference across west central Scotland and the Central Belt.

“It’s a huge opportunity to give the SNP a bloody nose at this election and set the SNP back.”

Mr Briggs added: “Now Nicola Sturgeon is starting her whole campaign for another referendum, if the SNP go backwards at this election, it really sends a message that people don’t want another divisive referendum. The best way to do that at the council elections is for the Conservatives, as the strongest opposition party, to try to win more seats across what were seen as traditional SNP and Labour areas.

“It’s that unionist tactical vote that I want to make sure we push for and try to ask people at this council election to consider how to kick out an SNP councillor in all these wards across Glasgow and the Central Belt.”

Mr Briggs played down the impact of the partygate saga engulfing the Conservatives at Westminster.

He said: “I think by and large, the conversations I’ve had since Christmas when we’ve seen these issues really come to the fore, people get that this is a council election.

“I do think we’ve got the most sophisticated electorate across the UK because we are just voting constantly.

I think voters are acutely aware this isn’t a Westminster election but the constitution is still going to be used by the SNP if they do well.”

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He was pressed over the absence of the Prime Minister from an election leaflet sent out by the Tories. Mr Briggs insisted the aim of the pamphlet was “to show our new talents”, with MSPs elected to Holyrood last year being put into the spotlight.

He added: “For Douglas, it’s not so much the Prime Minister but him stepping forward. The actual key message was around levels of support in by-elections where Labour and the Lib Dems have collapse and continued to go down. Every council by-election, we’ve increased our support.”

Amid reports the Prime Minister is set to appear at the Scottish Tory conference next month, despite a rift with Douglas Ross’ party, Mr Briggs does not expect the PM to be out on the campaign trail ahead of May’s election.

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He added: “By and large, I can’t think of any prime ministers who have come to support a council campaign. We want to use this to really get our new MSP group dug in.”

Kelly Parry, the SNP’s council election campaign director, said: “Miles Briggs needs to get out more.

“The only topic of conversation on the doorsteps is Boris Johnson and the fact you can’t trust the Tories, that’s the message voters will be sending in May.

“More and more people are waking up to the fact that Westminster is utterly out of touch with the everyday struggles of people across Scotland.”

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