Scots Tories spent too much time 'promoting' Nicola Sturgeon, says Michelle Ballantyne

Michelle Ballantyne has taken a fresh swipe at the Scottish Conservatives' general election campaign, insisting the party spent more time promoting Nicola Sturgeon than explaining the party's policies.

The list MSP, who is vying to replace Jackson Carlaw as leader of the Tories at Holyrood, was critical of how the party performed at the 2019 vote which saw it lose seven of its 13 MPs in Scotland.

In a newspaper column last month, Ms Ballantyne claimed the Scottish Tories had lacked "vision and ambition" ahead of the December election which resulted in Boris Johnson being returned to Downing Street with an 80-strong Commons majority.

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Ballantyne takes swipe at Jackson Carlaw
Michelle Ballantyne is campaigning to become Scottish Conservative leaderMichelle Ballantyne is campaigning to become Scottish Conservative leader
Michelle Ballantyne is campaigning to become Scottish Conservative leader
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In an interview with Sky News today, the Tory MSP said: "Let's make something very clear, in no way did I criticise the Prime Minister. I was the only person in the shadow cabinet that actually backed Boris to be Prime Minister. I've supported him all along and I will continue to do so.”

She continued: "However, in terms of our campaign here, yes I did think we got it wrong.

"I think running on a No to Indyref2 was not a good platform. It didn't do us any favours and I think we spent most of the time promoting Nicola Sturgeon, rather than promoting what we believed in, what our MPs had actually delivered in Westminster which was significant.

"And I think we really failed to get a positive message over to the people in Scotland."

Ms Ballantyne also dismissed recent polling suggesting growing support for Scottish independence.

"I think we need to focus on the things that are really important," she said. "Our education system is struggling, our health service is struggling."

Asked about Mr Johnson's refusal last month to a demand by Nicola Sturgeon for the Scottish Parliament to be granted powers to hold future plebiscites, the Tory MSP added: "That's where the power sits at the moment, the arrangements permission has to be sought from Westminster, and I think that's right.

"We are a union and we already had an independence referendum in 2014 and the people of Scotland said very clearly they wanted to remain."

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The results of an opinion poll published yesterday found a slim majority of Scottish voters now backed independence. The survey by Panelbase put support for leaving the UK at 52 per cent, with 48 per cent backing the union.

It came a day after another poll by Survation on voting intention found both the “yes” and “no” camps on 50 per cent each.

Ms Ballantyne said: "The polls said two things: it was now close in terms of how people would vote if they had (a referendum) today, but it also said very clearly the appetite is not to have a referendum right now."

Asked what figure opinion polls would have to reach before she would accept another referendum, she replied: "I don't think we'll get there, but if you wanted to look at what Nicola Sturgeon, she said you need to have at least 60 per cent - so she would need to double her current numbers in favour of a referendum, and I don't think that's going to happen."

Responding to the interview, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said: “It seemed impossible for the Scottish Tories to find a leader more out of touch with ordinary Scots than Ruth Davidson, but Jackson Carlaw and Michelle Ballantyne continue to excel in their detachment from reality.

“The three most recent polls show a majority of Scots back independence and with the SNP winning more than 80% of Scotland’s seats in the 2019 election, no Tory has the right to stand in the way of that mandate.

“Michelle Ballantyne might be trying to impress Boris Johnson with her denial of democracy, but people in Scotland aren’t buying it. Only the SNP is standing up for people in Scotland against the hard-right anti-democratic Tory Brexiteers at Westminster.”