FORMER Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft has claimed large numbers of Scots back David Cameron’s policies despite refusing to vote for his party at elections.
The peer writes in The Scotsman today that a chunk of the Scottish electorate are “Reluctant Cameroons” who are attracted to Conservative policies being pursued at Westminster.
Lord Ashcroft said a poll he had funded showed that one in six Scots is sympathetic to Mr Cameron’s political stance in addition to what he says are the “loyal Conservatives who always turn out” for the party.
The billionaire businessman has based his claims on a 10,000-sample poll, which involved focus groups and follow-up surveys over an eight-month period.
A newly published report from Lord Ashcroft called Cameron’s Caledonian Conundrum examines the collapse in Tory support in Scotland since the early 1990s.
He suggests that a group of reluctant Tories in Scotland trust the party at Westminster on the economy and over other key policies despite its electoral decline north of the Border.
Lord Ashcroft admits that most of those polled who he claims back Tory policies still say they would not vote Conservative tomorrow if a UK general election was held.
The Conservatives currently have only one MP north of the Border, with the party’s representation falling dramatically from the 11 MPs elected in Scotland in 1992.
But Lord Ashcroft insists that “despite the party’s shrinking vote share, there are potential Tories at large in Scotland”.
He claims that a further one in ten Scottish voters are in the “willing to listen” group and “lean towards Labour despite preferring Cameron as PM” but are still undecided. Lord Ashcroft says target voters for the Tories in Scotland prefer Mr Cameron over Ed Miliband and view the Prime Minister as being “willing to take tough decisions”.
The peer says that Mr Cameron “is an asset here” as he rejects suggestions the Prime Minister deters Scots from voting Tory.
Lord Ashcroft also suggests that some Scots would back the Tories if they lived in England, but instead vote to try to keep out either Labour or the SNP.
However, he accepts that the Tories in Scotland face “big drawbacks” with many Scots viewing the party as not being on their side.
But Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “It sounds like wishful thinking on the part of Lord Ashcroft as policies like the bedroom tax have proved to be incredibly unpopular in Scotland and elsewhere.”
SNP MSP John Wilson said: “While it may be the case that a section of the Scottish electorate votes for the Tories, the vast majority of people do not support the direction of travel being forced on Scotland by Westminster.”