SNP attack 'reunion of Better Together band' as Tories refuse to deny tactical voting ploy

A tactical voting ploy which would see Conservatives urge unionists to vote Labour at the next general election has been attacked as a ‘reunion’ of the 2014 Better Together ‘band’ but the leader of the SNP in Westminster.

Stephen Flynn said the ploy from the Scottish Conservatives was required due to both Labour and the Conservatives being unable to “muster a positive case for the broken union”.

According to the Sunday Times, the Scottish Tories will invite unionist rivals to engage in a tactical voting campaign that will see Labour benefit in urban areas, while the Tories focus on rural parts of the country.

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Such a ploy would likely see the SNP share of the vote squeezed on two sides, restricting the number of overall seats it would win at the next general election. A similar scheme at a Holyrood election could also limit the number of constituency seats for the SNP, impacting their ability to form a majority government or even a minority government.

Tactical voting could be pivotal at the next General ElectionTactical voting could be pivotal at the next General Election
Tactical voting could be pivotal at the next General Election

The Tories have not sought to knock down the report, with senior MSP Stephen Kerr saying: “I think it would be wrong to underestimate the sophistication of the Scottish electorate.

“I think they know exactly what they want, they know exactly how to vote.”

However, Mr Flynn responded with fury to the suggestion, stating the two parties have been “standing shoulder to shoulder” in councils, with voters unlikely to be “fooled” by the scheme.

He said: “It will surprise no one to see the dreadful better together band announcing their reunion - a band that made endless empty promises to people across Scotland because they couldn't muster a positive case for the broken union.

“The disastrous duo have been standing shoulder to shoulder in councils and in Holyrood ever since but, be in no doubt, people will not be fooled by this latest effort. Neither of the Westminster parties are even pretending to care about Scotland's interests anymore.

“Quite frankly, it’s a struggle to spot the difference between the Tories and Labour - the pro Brexit, pro cuts, anti Scottish democracy Labour Party is a pale imitation of the right wing Tories.

“Scotland deserves far better than either of the Westminster parties' contempt of ignoring our interests at every turn - the SNP will always champion Scotland’s voice and seek to build a fairer, more prosperous future as an independent country, free from Westminster control for good.”

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Mr Kerr rejected claims his party is trying to “manipulate” the vote, but added: “What I think we will find is that people can see… this is a continuity SNP Government with a continuity First Minister and it just won’t cut it.

“What this is about is the priorities of the people of Scotland, the people of Scotland have their priorities, the Conservative Party is committed to delivering those priorities.

“When it comes to voting, I think they’ll know how to vote to get rid of this nationalist Government.”

Any tactical voting pact would need to be signed off by Labour, to avoid the Tories ceding seats in Scotland and getting nothing in return.

Mr Kerr said he is unaware if any discussions have taken place with Anas Sarwar’s party, adding that the Tories will “always put the country first”.

Asked what Rishi Sunak thinks of the plan, Mr Kerr admitted he is unsure if the Prime Minister is aware of it, but he said the Tory leader is “committed to the idea that we put our country first”.

With the spectre of a by-election in Hamilton West and Rutherglen as former SNP-turned-independent MP Margaret Ferrier potentially faces a recall petition, Mr Kerr said he has not been involved in discussions around the strategy for any future campaign and is unaware if the Tories will decide not to stand a candidate in the seat to bolster the Labour vote.

Asked about the reports, a spokeswoman for the party said: “We will always urge voters to back the Scottish Conservatives in each and every election.

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“However, the electorate is sophisticated and aware of the dynamics in individual constituencies.

“In a host of seats, particularly in rural areas, the Scottish Conservatives are the only party who can defeat the SNP and we are confident that voters, for whom the union is the priority, understand that.”

Recent polls suggest the SNP could be set to lose between 14 and 18 seats at the next general election in Scotland as their support continues to falter and Scottish Labour’s continues to grow.

There was also some evidence of tactical voting in the 2021 Holyrood election which saw key seats, such as Scottish Labour’s in East Dunbartonshire, be won by unionist parties.

Formal agreements are highly unusual between parties, however informal truces on key seats may be agreed to ensure a certain result overall.

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