Tories fear they could lose six seats to George Galloway's All for Unity
Scottish Conservative strategists are worried George Galloway’s All For Unity party could take five or six seats off them at the election.
It follows a Panelbase poll at the weekend, which put the new anti-independence outfit on four per cent.
According to the Telegraph, the Tories believe that could leave them vulnerable in Central Scotland and the south of Scotland, where they picked up the final list seats in 2016.
"With four per cent support, they would cost us five or six seats,” a party source said told the paper. “Their support is coming disproportionately from us.”
The source added: "That's before you take into account [Alex Salmond's pro-independence] Alba on the list, which increases the competition for the remaining seats. It's a double whammy."
Another senior insider said: "The most likely scenario in the south of Scotland is Galloway will take out a Tory, not get elected and put a Green nationalist in instead."
The leader of AFU, Jamie Blackett, said he believed the party’s support could rise to “14 per cent, or even higher”.
He said: “We are not the vote splitters. The vote splitters are the three main unionist parties who are refusing to stand down candidates who have absolutely no hope of winning in constituencies.
“The Tories have spent the last few days indulging in a self-centred attack on All For Unity when they could have been attacking the SNP.”
The Panelbase survey also made grim reading for Douglas Ross, showing his approval rating down seven points in the past month to minus 23, the lowest of any Scottish leader.
On Monday he was forced to deny that he’d been sidelined in the campaign in favour of Ruth Davidson.
The former party leader - who has led the charge for the Tories in Holyrood since Ross took over from Jackson Carlaw last year - is to be the face of a new campaign to urge voters to back the Tories in May.
“Ruth is one of the most successful politicians in Scottish politics, and she rightly plays a key role in our campaign,” Ross said. “It’s my team, my manifesto, my policies and I’m delighted Ruth is a strong, integral part of that team.”
Davidson, who is taking up a seat in the House of Lords, said it was “mission critical” that pro-union voters unite to try to deny the SNP a majority.
Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour deputy leader, said: “Douglas Ross is used to spending time on the side-lines — but it’s now clear even his own party thinks he should be put on the subs bench.”
Keith Brown, the SNP’s depute leader, claimed the Conservatives were in “panic mode”. He added: “He is used to being on the side-lines in his refereeing career, but now he’s there in his political career too — if the situation was so ‘mission-critical’, why is he not the man in the middle?”