Humza Yousaf’s claim that the next general election in Scotland will be a “straight fight” between the SNP and the Tories is “confusing” for voters, Nicola Sturgeon’s former chief of staff has warned.

Liz Lloyd told the BBC that it was "quite a difficult message" for the party to sell on the doorsteps in the Central Belt.

Meanwhile, one of the party's longest serving MPs publicly criticised the language used by the First Minister.

Pete Wishart distanced himself from talk of Scotland becoming "Tory free."

READ MORE: Poll: Labour set to win most seats in Scotland

While the Tories and SNP are in a theoretical second and first place in 28 of Scotland’s 57 seats, polls suggest the First Minister could see Labour oust a great many of his MPs.

Last week, a Redfield and Wilson survey suggested the two parties were both set to win 34% of the vote at the looming general election.

The Tories were in a distant third on 16%.

Even though they are tied, the first-past-the-post system and Scotland’s electoral geography, particularly the concentration of Labour voters in Glasgow, means that if was replicated at the general election, Anas Sarwar's party would win most seats.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf defended his strategy.

“Let me say this, Scotland has a real opportunity, a historic opportunity to ensure that we kick out every single Conservative MP out of Scotland. and they deserve nothing less.

“And the only way to do that is to vote for the SNP, because the SNP is in second place in every single Conservative seat.”

He said his party would be “taking the challenge to Labour” because Sir Keir Starmer’s party had “aligned themselves with the same failing Westminster orthodoxy that has done so much damage.”

The First Minister said that despite the “challenges” facing the SNP, his party “continued by most polls to be ahead of our opponents.”

“I'm not complacent, I should say that very clearly. I think you've got to work extremely hard to earn and re-earn the trust of the Scottish people.

“The very reason why I'm confident that we can win the general election, very simply, is because people absolutely understand that the SNP and only the SNP will ensure that Scotland's voice is heard at Westminster.”

He admitted it would be a “tough election.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf gambles leadership by insisting SNP 'will win' election

Speaking to the show later, Ms Lloyd said the SNP were “trying to find a narrative” in the election “that cuts into Labour's march to power.”

She said: “This election is undoubtedly, no matter what side you're on, no matter what part of the country you are in, it's about getting the Tories out of power.”

“My interpretation of what the [SNP] are trying to do is to say, in Scotland, you can do that by voting for us.”

Ms Lloyd accepted that in most of the Central Belt the party would be fighting Labour.

“They are resting on the fact that in 2019 it is the Tories in second place in most of those seats because Labour was doing so badly.

"I think it is a little confusing. And it very much speaks I think just to the north eeast of Scotland where people are actually challenging Tory MPs, as opposed to the central belt.

“And I could see some central belt campaigns finding that quite a difficult message to sell on the doorsteps, but it does get back to what this election is about, which is can we get the Tories out of government?”

The Herald:

Ms Lloyd said she thought the party were trying to find a way to “tackle Labour's growing prominence in Scotland without directly taking Labour head" as the SNP would rather have a Labour government in Westminster than a Tory one.

"But the SNP would rather have SNP MPs holding that Labour government to account," she added.

The ex-party strategist added: “It's very difficult for the SNP and a Westminster election to find a message that has cut through and when it becomes about you know, who's in No 10.

“And this is them I think, feeling their way towards something I'm not sure they've got there just yet.”

On X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Mr Wishart shared a link to a newspaper article with the headline: "Make Scotland Tory-free, Yousaf to tell SNP gathering as election looms"

He commented: "Much as I will be doing everything possible to ensure that the Tories are kept out of Perth and Kinross-shire I won't be using this 'Tory free' rhetoric as part of my campaign."

Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Murdo Fraser, pointed out that Mr Wishart had, just over a week ago, used his social media to call for Scotland to be "Tory free."

Mr Fraser said: "Humza Yousaf's divisive rhetoric is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of people who vote Scottish Conservative.

"He also knows it’s not going to happen – in fact we’re aiming to make gains from the SNP at the general election.

"It’s interesting that the SNP's longest-serving MP is now disowning his leader’s ugly rhetoric. 

"But it's only been eight days since Pete Wishart trotted it out himself – so he has no credibility posing as a man of integrity."