The Scottish Tories are looking to upset the polls and deprive the SNP of an overall majority.
Throughout the campaign, Douglas Ross’ party has struggled make much headway, instead finding themselves in an electoral dogfight with Labour for second place, with both parties projected to lose seats in a number of recent studies.
Despite the battle the Tories have been locked in with the newly invigorated Scottish Labour Party under Anas Sarwar, Ross and his candidates have focused more on the SNP, calling on pro-union voters to abandon their usual parties and back them on the regional list to deprive Nicola Sturgeon’s party of a majority.
In almost every interview and appearance Ross has made, he has talked up the dangers of another independence referendum, instead insisting that the new Scottish Government – which will almost certainly be headed by the SNP – focus instead on the recovery from Covid-19.
A recent Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times put the Tories at 22% in the regional list, ahead of Labour on 16% and trailing the SNP on 46%.
The poll continued a trend for the party, which has been hovering around the low 20% mark in the regions and in constituencies for most of the campaign, struggling to see any increases.
Ross’ plea to pro-UK voters to save the union appears to be the last hope of the party to stop an overall SNP majority – which would ramp up the pressure on Downing Street to allow the transfer of power needed for another referendum.
But the leader’s own personal rankings could hinder that cause.
A recent Survation poll for newspaper publisher DC Thomson found that Ross had a net favourability rating of -26%, with 11% of the 1037 Scots saying they had not heard of him.
This is compared with -14% net favourability for former Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who will be standing down at Thursday’s election to take a seat in the House of Lords.
Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, boasted a net favourability rating of 14%, while Anas Sarwar, who has been in the job less than three months, had a 7% net favourability.
Last week Ross said he was not focused on individual leaders’ ratings.
“I don’t think those are the numbers that really count,” he said.
“The numbers that count to me are the 7.6% unemployment we could have this year according to the Scottish Fiscal Commission.
“The 2.7 million people who have been protected with the first dose of the vaccine, the hundreds of thousands that are still on furlough and want to know their job is secure as the restrictions start to ease – that’s really what I’m focusing on in terms of numbers and the important numbers for me in this election.”
He went on to say he thought the Scottish people can see the Tories are “the only ones willing to challenge Nicola Sturgeon on her record”, adding they are the “only party that will take a strong position on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom”.