LIZ Truss has yet to win the backing of a single Conservative MSP in her bid to be the next Prime Minister.

Although the Foreign Secretary is, by quite some considerable distance, the most popular of the two candidates with party members, it is Rishi Sunak who is winning the race for Holyrood endorsements.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for Ms Truss, pollster Mark Diffley said that whoever won the contest would ultimately be good news for Douglas Ross and the Scottish party as it would allow them to put their “unhappy Johnson period behind them”.

The Herald on Sunday asked all Tory MSPs who they were backing and why. Just over half of the parliamentary group responded. Most of those who did said they were still undecided.

Jackson Carlaw is one of those backing Mr Sunak. He said the former chancellor had “been clear that no issue is more important to the Conservative and Unionist party than keeping our four nations united as one United Kingdom and that he would forge the most active UK-wide Government in decades”.

He added: “It is this level of commitment, imagination and passion for Scotland’s place in the UK that is needed from our next party leader and Prime Minister in the face of Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless push for another referendum.

“It is his time to lead our country. I am ‘Ready for Rishi’.”

Lothian list MSP Jeremy Balfour said both candidates had “qualities”, adding: “But I think the cost-of-living crisis and growing the economy will be led better under his leadership,” he added.

Dean Lockhart, Donald Cameron, and Maurice Golden have also come out for Mr Sunak.

Liz Smith, who represents Mid Scotland and Fife, said she would almost certainly back Mr Sunak.

She told The Herald on Sunday: “As l said the day Boris resigned, l will not finally commit until l have heard much more from both of them about three things which matter greatly to me: how they will restore integrity and trust, how they will approach the economy and not just on tax and spend, and how they will support Scotland and strengthen the United Kingdom.”

Most of the others in the party were undecided, with many waiting until Ms Truss and Mr Sunak go head to head at a hustings in Perth on August 16.

When we asked MSPs what the candidates needed to do to woo them, the most common answers were protect the union, fix the economy, and restore integrity.

MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, Finlay Carson, who originally backed Tom Tugendhat, said he was “looking forward to hearing from Rishi and Liz and the case they put forward for making the strongest case for Scotland remaining part of the UK”.

Rachael Hamilton, the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said she was “disappointed that Kemi Banedoch didn’t make it to the last two, but I’m sure she has a bright future in either Rishi or Liz’s Cabinet”.

She added: “I’ve met Rishi and Liz, they’re experienced and convivial, and both have supported me in the Scottish Borders.

“I’ve yet to make up my mind, and I plan to do that by taking counsel from local members and weighing up the tax and spend policies of both candidates in the face of a cost-of-living crisis.

“I look forward to the hustings and shall be seeking reassurance on Rishi and Liz’s commitment to standing up to the SNP and the importance of Scotland’s place as part of the United Kingdom.”

Liam Kerr said his vote was there to be won. “I want to hear more from both before I come down one way or the other, most particularly around their plans for Scotland and how they will protect and make the case for the Union; the economy and strategies to address the cost of living for people; their approach to the war in Ukraine and our wider international relations; and also addressing concerns people might have around trust in politicians.”

Liz Truss speaks to supporters during a visit to Ashley House, Marden, Kent, as part of her campaign to be leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and the next prime minister. Picture date: Saturday July 23, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS

Mr Ross and Craig Hoy, the party chairman, have both said they will not publicly declare for either candidate.

According to reports, it is thought the party leadership are keen to keep neutral in the race and avoid another Operation A*** fiasco, the botched attempt by the Scottish party to stop Boris Johnson from being elected.

Mr Ross has had a particularly fractious relationship with the outgoing Prime Minister.

He was one of the first senior Tories to call for Mr Johnson to resign over partygate though he later rescinded that call after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, before later backing a motion of no confidence in the Old Etonian.

Mr Diffley said whoever was elected could help repair that relationship.

“They need to just rebuild,” he said. “Whoever wins, it gives them the opportunity to finally put the – unhappy for them – Johnson period behind them because he will no longer be there. I do think it’s helpful for Douglas. I do actually genuinely think that regardless of who wins he’ll be able to turn the page on that and try to recover some ground.

“There’s absolutely no doubt about it that they took a hit in local elections because of that, and because of all the scandal surrounding the Prime Minister.”

Liz Truss speaks to supporters during a visit to Ashley House, Marden, Kent, as part of her campaign to be leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and the next prime minister. Picture date: Saturday July 23, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS

Mr Diffley said Boris Johnson’s role as a recruiting sergeant for the Yes campaign had been overblown and said support for independence when he arrived in office was “pretty much the same within a percentage point or two as he leaves office”.

“The important thing for the Scottish Tories is that the new leader doesn’t back down over an independence referendum, doesn’t change their mind, doesn’t soften the approach – they don’t want to be sold down the river.

“From what I’ve seen of hustings and debates and interviews, then I don’t think either of Truss or Sunak, unsurprisingly, at least at this stage, are going to going to soften their approach on that.”

Dr Alan Convery, an academic at Edinburgh University who specialises in Scottish Conservatism, said the party here would “probably be hoping for a period of calm competence, rather than more Brexit battles.”

This, he added, would make Mr Sunak more appealing.

Dr Convery continued: “Sunak also appears more likely to be able to do a deal on Northern Ireland and take the heat out of Brexit a bit, a duller question of regulation rather than a constant fight with Brussels.

“I think both are probably better than Johnson but if Truss appears to continue his approach, then that is unlikely to be the best option from a Scottish Conservative perspective.”

Last week, Ruth Davidson backed Mr Sunak, saying he had a “first-rate intellect”.

Liz Truss speaks to supporters during a visit to Ashley House, Marden, Kent, as part of her campaign to be leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and the next prime minister. Picture date: Saturday July 23, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS

The former Scottish Tory leader said the former chancellor would bring “professionalism and seriousness of purpose” to the role.

In contrast, she suggested Foreign Secretary Liz Truss would be a “gamble”.

Nevertheless, a YouGov poll of 730 Conservative Party members taken last Wednesday evening and Thursday morning found the Foreign Secretary would beat the former chancellor by 62 per cent to 38% among Tory party members.

The 24 percentage point lead was up from a 20 point lead two days before.

The latest survey also found that 15% said they do not know how they would vote.

Ms Truss’s lead is smaller than the one enjoyed by Mr Johnson over Jeremy Hunt in the 2019 contest.

At the start of the race he was ahead by 74% to 26%.

While that gap closed by the end of the contest, the Prime Minister still managed to win by a massive 66% to 34%.

A spokesperson for Ms Truss said the foreign secretary, having grown up in Paisley, regarded herself as a "child of the Union" and "strongly believes in Scotland and its role in the Union."

They added: "She has championed Scotland throughout her time in Government including as Trade Secretary where she delivered the removal of US tariffs on Scotch Whiskey, boosting exports and supporting local livelihoods.

"As Prime Minister, she will continue to deliver for hard working families and businesses across Scotland. Her bold plan for economic growth will deliver more investment opportunities across Scotland. She will govern in a conservative way, cutting taxes and allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

A campaign spokesperson for Mr Sunak told The Herald on Sunday:"Only Rishi can defeat Labour and stop the SNP from getting into power via the backdoor in Westminster.

"Rishi believes that Scotland will play a key role in the UK's economic recovery, and that all of the things we have achieved as a country we have done so as one United Kingdom. 

"He wants to build on that and double down on the UK Governments investment and activity across the country. 

"This means a UK Government who is willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in to creating jobs, growth and prosperity in all corners of the UK, from Llandudno to Perth, Belfast to Birmingham. This is what he started as Chancellor, and what he intends to continue as Prime Minister".

The 31 Tory MSPs, as party members, will get one vote in the contest, along with the other 160,000 paid-up activists around the UK.

Voting continues until 5pm on Friday, September 2, with the winner announced on the following Monday.