Scottish Daily Mail
Leaked, plan that may stop SNP winning majority at Holyrood
Tories pin hopes on tactical voting
TACTICAL voters who support the Union are to be targeted in a bid to deny the SNP a majority in May’s Holyrood elections, a leaked Tory report shows.
The election strategy document, seen by the Scottish Daily Mail, claims the Scottish Conservatives can win ‘up to 40 seats’ by encouraging tactical voting on the regional list ballot.
It warns that a split Unionist vote on the second vote, which uses a proportional system, will result in more pro-independence SNP and Green MSPs getting elected.
The SNP has said it will launch new legislation to hold another independence referendum if a majority of MSPs who support it are elected.
National polling suggests the SNP is on track to increase its seats in May and win an outright majority, while the Tories are on course to win only 20 per cent on both the constituency and list vote.
The document outlining the Scottish Tory campaign strategy, compiled by senior officials, makes clear that the main aim is to deny the SNP an outright majority.
It says: ‘If the Scottish Conservatives were able to retain the constituency seats they won in 2016, turn out the same number of votes in the list as they won in the 2019 general election and turnout remains constant, we estimate that the party can deny the SNP a majority, even taking into account changes in support for other parties.
‘The more that the pro-UK vote consolidates behind the Scottish Conservatives on the list, the more chance we have of
‘Ready and willing to tactically vote’
stopping an SNP majority. Any split in the pro-UK vote, particularly on the list, will guarantee an SNP majority.
‘If Scottish Conservative messaging can get across to voters the importance of the list vote, the party can stop an SNP majority. If the pro-UK list vote consolidates slightly more (even around 1-5 per cent), modelling suggests the Scottish Conservatives will achieve enough seats to stop an SNP majority.’
If the strategy is successful, the document suggests that the Conservatives can go from the record high 31 seats the party won in 2016 to ‘up to 40’ in May.
Under the Scottish parliament system, voters pick their preferred candidate to become a constituency MSP but also rank parties on the regional list.
The 129 seats in the parliament are divided into 73 MSPs elected through first-past-the-post constituencies and 56 elected through regional party lists, where the more proportional ‘additional member’ voting system is used.
The Tory document states that it is ‘intended to inform the party’s campaigning and communications for the 2021 Scottish parliament election’.
It says the Conservatives are the top choice for Unionist tactical voters in 36 Scottish parliament constituencies, according to an analysis of the 2016 Scottish parliament and 2019 general election results.
Citing ‘internal focus groups and polling, it says there is now an ‘increased willingness for Unionist tactical voting’.
But it adds: ‘Our internal polling shows that, while voters are ready and willing to tactically vote, they have not yet realised the importance of the list vote to stopping an SNP majority.’
The paper acknowledges the SNP are ‘likely to win a large majority of Scottish constituency seats’. However, saying that the SNP is unlikely to win many list seats, it warns that ‘the few that they will win are likely to be the difference between a majority and minority’.
It says smaller parties, such as Reform UK, could split the proUnion vote and lead to ‘potential list seats losses to the SNP’.
Nationalist SNP George Adam said: ‘The Tories are clearly panicking – and their approach smacks of desperation. If the Tories were so confident in the leadership of Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson, they’d be putting forward a positive argument instead of urging activists to try to save seats they already hold.’