A boisterous and confident Scottish Conservative election campaign is proving “helpful” to the SNP in seats like North Perthshire and North East Fife, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.
In an interview with The Courier after campaigning in Anstruther, the First Minister said she was “feeling pretty optimistic” about her party’s chances in marginal seats across the country with a week to go until polling day.
It is a straight fight between Tory Ian Duncan and the SNP’s Pete Wishart in Perth and North Perthshire, but both the Liberal Democrats, who are standing Elizabeth Riches, and Conservatives, who put forward Tony Miklinski, have claimed they are Stephen Gethins’ main challengers in North East Fife.
The Lib Dems, whose Scottish leader Willie Rennie won the corresponding constituency at last year’s Holyrood election, took the largest share of first preference votes in May’s council elections, pulling in 37.15% of the electorate. The SNP clocked up 25.76% and the Conservatives 23.19%.
YouGov’s new election centre puts the Lib Dems in second place behind the SNP.
Two recent pieces of analysis by Electoral Calculus and Lord Ashcroft had the Tories as closest to Mr Gethins in their predictions of likelihood of winning the seat.
Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative deputy leader, said on Monday the party could win up to 12 seats north of the border in the general election.
Ms Sturgeon said: “What they have done is signalled to a lot of people who don’t want to see Tory MPs in a lot of constituencies that they are a threat.
“We have found this as the campaign has progressed. It has certainly had a motivational effect on not just SNP supporters but in a constituency like this, Liberal supporters who want to stop the Tories and the Tories are telling them the way to do that is to vote for Stephen.
“You see that in constituencies like Moray and Perth and North Perthshire and other areas, the Tories have been quite helpful to us.”
Mr Gethins claimed the Conservative vote was on the rise in North East Fife but that endorsements from former senior Lib Dems such as Andy Myles and Simon Horner have convinced some supporters of his other rivals to switch allegiance to the SNP.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem for North East Fife, hit back at Ms Sturgeon’s claims and said only Ms Riches can beat the SNP.
He said: “Nicola is talking up the Conservatives’ chances as that is the only way the SNP can win.
“Even the battered fish at the famous Anstruther Fish Bar know it’s a straight choice between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in North East Fife.”
Scottish Conservative Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said: “These are the words of a woman who is clearly rattled.
“She obviously fears the Scottish Conservatives taking seats from her nationalist MPs the length and breadth of the country.”