Douglas Ross looks set to use his conference speech to backtrack on previous comments suggesting a push for tactical voting to unseat the SNP in Scotland.
In a speech at his party’s annual conference on Friday, the Scottish Conservative leader will urge voters to back his party at the next UK election – backtracking on comments that suggested voters should select the party with the best chance of defeating the SNP.
Ross caused controversy in his own party last month when he used an interview in the Daily Telegraph to say “where there is the strongest candidate to beat the SNP, you get behind that candidate”.
But within hours of the comments, a spokesman for the party said they were “emphatically not the view of the Conservative Party”.
A report in the Scotsman quoted senior Tory MSPs saying they were not consulted about the comments.
Ross later added he would “always” encourage Scottish Tory voters to back his party.
Speaking at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow on Friday, Ross is expected to tell attendees “the best way” to beat the SNP is to “vote for the Scottish Conservatives”.
He is expected to say: “This failing SNP Government, mired in scandal and sleaze, cannot focus on governing our country.
“They cannot tackle the big challenges Scotland faces.
“It is painfully obvious that Humza Yousaf is not up to the job of being First Minister.
“At the general election next year, people across Scotland have a choice.
“They can give Humza Yousaf a blank cheque; the thumbs up to continue to lead an incompetent government and to focus on the priorities of the SNP.
“Or they can unseat SNP MPs and their referendum obsession, and send a strong signal to Humza Yousaf’s Government to focus on their real priorities.
“And the best way that Scots can do this in seats right across our country is to vote for the Scottish Conservatives.”
Ross will also use his speech to attack the ongoing turmoil within the SNP, claiming the events of recent months “have blown a huge hole in the economic case for independence”.
He will add: “The SNP cannot even manage their own accounts, how can they be trusted on the finances of an independent Scotland?
“Nobody will ever believe a nationalist on currency, pensions and balancing the books ever again.
“We have always known that our arguments on trade, currency and jobs were stronger – and the 2014 referendum proved that.
“But now the SNP lack any credibility.
“Through their own blunders, the nationalists have crashed the case for independence.”
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said Mr Ross will be “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” at the party’s two-day conference, adding: “After 13 years of failure, the Tories are out of touch and out of time.
“This economically illiterate and morally bankrupt party has been a disaster for Scotland and provided endless cover for the SNP,” the Labour MP said.
“They crashed the economy and it will cost Scots thousands of pounds for years to come.
“They will continue to sink to new lows as they get more and more desperate, but change is coming with a Labour government.”