DOUGLAS Ross has insisted his is not taking his party finishing in second place at May’s election “for granted” amid a threat from growing Labour support as he pointed to voters flocking to support the Conservatives four years ago to show their opposition to independence.

The Tory leader has stressed that Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour is too soft on independence and is confident voters who do not want independence will prop up his party’s chances at the ballot box in May - in a similar vein to Ruth Davidson’s success story four years ago.

A poll carried out by Survation on behalf of DC Thomson was the latest of a number of recent studies showing Labour could overtake the Tories into second place at Holyrood and become the official opposition to the SNP in the next parliament.

When asked about the threat from Labour, Mr Ross said: “I don’t take anything for granted in this election.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar criticises Tories for 'just shouting about independence'

“Cleary five years ago, people saw the Scottish Conservatives as the strongest party to challenge the SNP and to stop them. So far in this election campaign, I think people will see the same.

“They are not getting a strong message from Scottish Labour on the Union or on standing up to the SNP. Also, people just have to look at Labour’s track record in Scotland – they have lost votes and they have lost seats at every election since 1999. Since devolution, Labour has lost support here in Scotland.”

Mr Ross had appealed to both Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a unionist coalition, but both Mr Sarwar and Willie Rennie rejected the call.

But the Scottish Tory leader said the invitation remains open to join forces - and is hoping Labour and Lib Dem voters back the Conservatives on the list ballot to help his party repeat their success of 2016.

He said: “Some people may back Labour or the Liberal Democrats in a constituency but they know by backing the Scottish Conservatives on the party list vote, in 2016, it was only because of that we were able to more than double the number of our MSPs, stop the SNP having a majority and stop that referendum five years ago. 

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar responds to Douglas Ross letter calling for 'pro-Union coalition'

“We need people to do the same again, five years on. The threat is the same – the opportunity to stop the SNP is the same. The vehicle to do that is to vote Scottish Conservatives on the list party vote.” 

Mr Ross denied that his party attacking Nicola Sturgeon for her part in the Alex Salmond affair has not played into the SNP’s hands, with the First Minister cleared of breaching the ministerial code by an independent review and her seeing off a vote of no confidence in Holyrood, brought by the Tories.

He said: “I think people will have seen the First Minister has apologised for the actions of her government, which clearly let down two women at the heart of these allegations.

“We know there has been a waste of more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on this.”

The Tory leader pointed to James Hamilton’s independent report which found no breach of the code by Ms Sturgeon.

Mr Ross added: “He said it was up to MSPs to determine if the FM had misled the parliament.

“MSPs from across the political parties agreed she had misled parliament and therefore I think it was right to bring forward the vote of no confidence.”