Nicola Sturgeon has declared she is “very confident” that Pete Wishart will survive a concerted Conservative campaign in Perth and North Perthshire.
The Tories became the largest party in Perth and Kinross Council following Thursday’s local elections and claimed around 1,500 more votes than the SNP across the Westminster constituency, albeit with a lower turnout than is expected in the general election.
This prompted Nationalist candidate Pete Wishart to admit the party is “in the battle of our lives” locally, but the First Minister was more combative during a visit to Perth’s Inveralmond Brewery where she was shown the first phase of a £750,000 expansion.
She said: “Pete’s a fantastic local MP with a lot of support locally and of course the issue at the heart of this election, not just in Perth and Perthshire but across Scotland, is a very straightforward one.
“Tory MPs from Scotland will be a rubber stamp for Theresa May for her reckless approach to Brexit and the cuts we know the Tories will want to impose.
“SNP MPs like Pete Wishart will be MPs who go to Westminster to stand up for Scotland and make Scotland’s voice heard and protect Scotland’s interests.”
Mr Wishart added: “We know we are in the battle of our lives in Perth and North Perthshire. There is no getting away from the fact that the Conservatives did very well in the local elections.
“Now we are in the battle for real. I have been in this situation before, where they have arrogantly claimed they will take the seat but I am confident of seeing them off again, without taking any votes for granted.”
Asked how a strong showing by her party on June 8 would affect the chances of another independence referendum, Ms Sturgeon said it would “reinforce the voice of the Scottish Parliament and the mandate of the Scottish Government.”
Ian Duncan, the Scottish Conservative MEP and candidate for Perth and North Perthshire, accused Ms Sturgeon of having a “brass neck” with her attack on his party.
He said: “It is her reckless pursuit of a second referendum on independence which threatens Scottish jobs and Scottish interests and while schools in the area struggle to find teachers.
“She promised not to bring it back for a generation – instead she is trying to use Brexit to push it back on the table.
“Whether you voted Leave or Remain in the EU referendum, our best interests are now served by moving on from yet more uncertainty.”