SIPPING a can of Irn-Bru and scoffing fish and chips on a seagull poo-splattered harbour in the north-east of Scotland, the message could not have been clearer.

Jeremy Hunt, who is battling Boris Johnson for the keys to Number 10, wants Scottish Tory members to know the Union is safe in his hands – and that he will support it, to use his words, with every drop of blood in his veins. 

The Foreign Secretary spent part of his childhood in Scotland and was using this campaign visit to pop in on his 99-year-old great-aunt Betty, who lives just outside Aberdeen

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It was a trip aimed at burnishing Mr Hunt's Scottish credentials, and the timing was impeccable. 

His visit to Peterhead came as a poll for the Sunday Times showed support for independence would climb to 53 per cent if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. North of the Border, he is less popular than Nigel Farage

For many Scottish Tories, it is a chilling glimpse of the future. They fear Mr Johnson will spell disaster for their party and for the future of the UK.

It's no wonder Mr Hunt looked cheerful as he arrived at Peterhead Port Authority at 12:40pm, dressed casually in jeans, black trainers and an open-necked shirt.

Greeted by local fisherman and industry representatives, he promptly disappeared into a room to discuss the impact of Brexit, before reemerging for photos and broadcast interviews onboard a moored trawler.

At 1:30pm, a van from Peterhead's Mintlaw Chipper arrived bearing several bags of fish and chips. In a classy move other political campaigns could learn from, Mr Hunt's press team had ensured there was enough for the gathered journalists.

Inside the Port Authority building, the Foreign Secretary took questions from the press for just over ten minutes, cracking open a can of Irn-Bru as he did so. 

But did he actually like Scotland's other national drink?

“It is a new experience, and it’s very pleasant," he said, sounding slightly unconvincing. 

Elsewhere, he dodged questions about Mr Johnson's character following the revelation police were called to the home he shares with his partner, Carrie Symonds, after the couple apparently had a loud row.

Instead, Mr Hunt repeatedly steered his answers back to his preferred talking point: Mr Johnson's failure to debate him on live TV before Tory members receive their postal ballots. That's the thing most people want to hear about, he insisted.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Boris Johnson as PM would be ‘disastrous’ for Tories

Asked why the public should trust either of the Tory leadership frontrunners on Brexit, Mr Hunt said: "I'm not saying it's going to be easy. I'm very clear this is a challenging thing to deliver.

“I’m also clear that if the only way to leave the EU was with a no-deal Brexit, with a heavy heart, that’s what I’d do.

“But people have to make a judgement as to who EU leaders are more likely to engage with, more likely to negotiate with, more likely to trust.

“They want to resolve this too. I think they will listen to what a new Prime Minister says and people have to judge who is the more likely person to resolve this crisis.”

He might not want to make his attacks personal, but he is nevertheless attempting to fuel a key question in the minds of Tory members. Who do they trust more with the country's future?

Later, Mr Hunt travelled to Aberdeen, where he strolled along the esplanade and was photographed chatting to voters. 

Among them were Biddy Henderson, 54, and her daughter Jody, 17, who run the Country Quines Kitchen food van, looking out over the windswept beach. 

Mr Hunt was snapped chatting happily to the pair, but what did they really make of him?

"There's none of them any better than the other," came Biddy's withering assessment. "They really have no idea about the real world."

Elsewhere, the feedback was more positive. Helen Wu, 40, hailed Mr Hunt for making the effort to travel to Aberdeen and said he would secure her support over Mr Johnson.

Another local, Mandy Leslie, dismissed Mr Johnson as "Boris the buffoon". 

Mr Hunt's great-aunt Betty – a lifelong Conservative whose grandchildren work in the oil and gas industry – insisted she was proud of her great nephew, adding: "He's a great listener, he always wants to hear your opinions. 

"I think he would be a great Prime Minister because of his experience of running the Olympics, the NHS and as Foreign Secretary."

He might have his family's backing, but Mr Hunt has a long way to go if he is to secure the keys to Number 10. With the winner announced in the week of July 22, Mr Johnson's lead looks untouchable. But a month is a long time in politics. Best stock up on the Irn-Bru.