SCOTTISH Secretary David Mundell has said the so-called “cybernats” helped spur him on during the election campaign to hold on to his seat and prevent Scotland from becoming a Conservative-free zone.
Despite still being the only Tory MP in Scotland, Mr Mundell said he believes his party is on the verge of becoming the second largest north of the Border, following the collapse of support for Labour.
Mr Mundell told The Scotsman that on the “bitterly cold mornings” faced with the “grind of having to knock on hundreds of doors” he would look at his Twitter feed to read the abuse from “trolls” who support the SNP – known as cybernats – and be inspired to try to save his Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale seat.
He said that “panda jokes” of there being more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs got him especially motivated as he held on by just 798 votes.
“I got the joke about there being more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland every day and it really made me want to show people that I could win,” he said.
“It was hard work. Knocking on hundreds of doors in such a big constituency every day is a real grind and some bitterly cold mornings in the campaign I really just wanted to stay in my warm bed.
“I got the joke about there being more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland every day and it really made me want to show people that I could win”David Mundell
“But then I would get up look at my Twitter account, see the abuse from the cybernats and feel motivated to get out there and campaign hard.”
However with the SNP surge across Scotland, the new Scottish Secretary was less than confident about keeping his seat and even booked a holiday to Florida the Tuesday after the election, which he had to cancel when he actually won just holding off the 27.5 per cent increase in the SNP vote for Emma Harper.
“I arrived at the count braced to be beaten,” he said.
“I felt though that if I had gone down I had at least done everything I could to win. I had managed to get out everybody in the constituency who would vote for me. And if I had been beaten I decided I just wanted to get away, not look at the news, not see who was in the Cabinet.”
He added: “That would have been it for me. I wouldn’t have tried to get a Scottish Parliament seat or run again for Westminster.”
Instead of flying to the US at 3pm the Monday after the election a re-elected Mr Mundell found himself taking the walk down Downing Street to be told he was the next Scottish Secretary.
And contrary to expectation when he turned up for the first Cabinet meeting he did not have to sit at the end of the table.
“I don’t know what the positioning means but I was just three along from the Prime Minister which was nice. I suspect I won’t always be there.”
This week he will give the Cabinet a presentation on the new Scotland Bill which will aim to see the Smith Commission powers devolved in full “both in letter and spirit.”
He said: “We have a clear and different message which is a moderate centre right one. We have a leader in Ruth Davidson who has become the voice of Unionism in a way Labour no longer is.
“The last election saw us take a lot of good second places and we are in a good place now to become the second party in Scotland.
“I think when you look at what has happened to Labour, the losses they have suffered and the long hard road back for them, we are in a good position now to become the second party in Scotland.”