Sir Ed Davey has claimed that the controversy surrounding Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment could help lead to Liberal Democrat gains across Scotland next week.
The party leader said his team was campaigning with a “spring in our steps”, and had been boosted by a perception that the Tories had become the “nasty party” again.
Sir Ed, who will make his second Holyrood campaign visit to Scotland next week, said he had detected a “mood change” among the public, claiming voters were preparing to reject both the SNP and the Conservatives.
Speaking to journalists, he insisted support for the SNP was “softer than people remember it for over a decade”.
And Sir Ed claimed that voters who previously backed the Scottish Tories under Ruth Davidson were now being put off by Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson, who were branded “two peas in a pod”, with the prime minister said to be “mired in scandal”.
Mr Johnson has faced a series of negative headlines over claims he privately said he would prefer to see “bodies piled high” than order a second lockdown, while an investigation has been launched into renovations carried out at his Downing Street flat.
The Lib Dems’ top target constituency is to win the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat from the SNP, where their candidate, Molly Nolan, is up against Scottish children’s minister Maree Todd.
Sir Ed, who has been phoning voters in the Highland seat as part of the efforts, said Labour and Tory voters in the area were increasingly realising it was a “two-horse race” between his party and Nicola Sturgeon’s.
He said the Liberal Democrats also hoped to pick up more seats through the regional list system, arguing a small change in voting behaviour could see the party gain “three, four, five” MSPs across the country.
Sir Ed said: “It is possible for us, even with a small change in the votes as they fall, to win seats in every region.
“I’m not making predictions, it’s been such a weird campaign. But be in no doubt, we are increasingly optimistic we can make gains in many of the list seats.”
He said he believed his party was “in tune” with voters “when we say put recovery first”, adding: “We are beginning to see people responding in bigger numbers to that on the doorstep.
“We want to stop the SNP in areas like Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, we want to stop other parties that are putting independence before other things, like the Green Party.
“But we are also an anti-Conservative party; always have been, always will be. So yes, we want to take votes off the Conservatives, of course we do.
I just think we therefore have an opportunity, with the Tories being very poorly led, with Boris Johnson being such a disaster, that we can take votes from the Conservatives.”
Sir Ed Davey
“We actually think the mood swing isn’t just against the SNP, it is against the Conservatives.
“It is Boris Johnson’s scandals, which I don’t think will be welcomed by former Conservative supporters, but also I think Douglas Ross has gone down very badly, he’s been quite a dark figure, his overall tone has put Conservatives off. He’s just not a patch on Ruth Davidson.
“I just think we therefore have an opportunity, with the Tories being very poorly led, with Boris Johnson being such a disaster, that we can take votes from the Conservatives.”