Rishi Sunak has predicted the Scottish Tories will gain seats at the general election.

The Prime Minister, who today confirmed the vote would be this year rather than the last-gap option of January 2025, forecast an improvement “when it comes to Scotland”.

His phrasing could suggest he is expecting losses in the rest of the country.

A new poll this week suggested the Tories were backed by just 15% of Scottish voters, their lowest level since Liz Truss was Prime Minister for seven weeks in late 2022.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said earlier today he was “optimistic about a good general election result”, but did not put a target on it.

His party fell from 13 seats to six at the 2019 general election, but picked up a seventh last year through the defection of former SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron in East Kilbride.

Speaking to the media at the Scottish Tory conference in Aberdeen, Mr Sunak went further than Mr Ross when asked if his party was set for a 1997-style wipe-out north of the border.

He said: “I saw the poll, but that’s not reflective of what we’re hearing on the ground and the recent success that we’re having in council by-elections.

“And I think, come the election, because that's ultimately the only one that matters, I think we expect to gain when it comes to Scotland, and that's because our messages resonate.

“Our message is resonating, and that's because we're delivering for the people of Scotland. 

“You can see that with investment in local communities, you can see it in the two new [Treasury-funded] freeports that are attracting jobs and investment in the industries of the future, you can see it in our staunch support for the North Sea energy industry - the only party… standing up for those jobs when others want to ban North Sea oil and gas.”

Mr Sunak also said his party's economic plan was working, with inflation halving in the last year and cuts to personal and businesses taxes south of the border.

He said: “The contrast with the SNP and Labour is that they would just take us back to square one. We want to give people the peace of mind of a brighter future ahead. 

“The SNP’s obsession with independence means that the day-to-day public services that people care about aren't getting the attention that they deserve. 

“NHS funding is going down in real terms this forthcoming year in Scotland, 

“Scottish schools are plummeting down international league tables - that is failing a generation of young Scottish children.

“Scottish schools used to be the envy of the UK. In England, schools are marching off those league tables because of the reforms that we've done, because of our focus on kids’ education. And that is a very strong and clear contrast. 

“If you vote Conservative, not only do you strengthen the Union, you will have financial security and peace of mind and stronger public services. 

“And that's what Douglas and the team here offer.”