CONSERVATIVE leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak has told party members that they need to “worry” about Scotland’s place in the union.

Speaking at a hustings in Birmingham, the former Chancellor insisted that he rather than rival Liz Truss would be able to reassure the No voters who will never vote Tory.

He said the party needed to fight Scottish independence “with an argument that speaks to people's hearts.”

Earlier this week, a Panelbase poll said that Scotland would be more likely to back a Yes vote if Ms Truss becomes prime minister. Support for staying in the UK would fall from 51 per cent to 48%. 

Mr Sunak fared only marginally better, with No polling at 49% if he wins the contest. 

Responding to a question about the Northern Ireland Protocol - where he promised to push ahead with the controversial legislation if elected - Mr Sunak, told the audience: “Now, the other part of the union we need to worry about is obviously Scotland.”

“And there I think we need to do a few things,” he said. “The first thing is we've got to more actively demonstrate the benefit of the Union in Scotland. And that's something that I started [as Chancellor]. 

"Actually, the civil service got all very upset, but I said 'hang on, we're going to actually now start investing directly in Scottish communities. We're going to talk to them directly and not have everybody just go to the SNP government. We're going to have genuine devolution.'

"That's really working and we need to do more of that.

"The second thing we need to do is remember that when it comes to the union in Scotland, who are we talking to?

“We're not talking to Tories, they're all fine. We need to talk to the third of the people in Scotland who do not vote Conservative and are never likely to but are Unionists.

“We need a leader who can actually talk to those people. And I believe that I can."

Mr Sunak said that while his party needed to deploy arguments over borrowing, pensions, currency and trade, they needed to be more emotional. 

“We have to remember, nationalism is very seductive.

“It's a romantic idea. And we have to fight that idea with an argument that speaks to people's hearts.

"My grandparents emigrated here, not to England. They immigrated to the United Kingdom. And it wasn't geography for them. It represented a set of values.

"And we have to make an argument about the union that is based on those shared values, that speaks to people's hearts, and that's what I will do as Prime Minister."

Meanwhile, Ms Truss promised to help people on “fixed incomes” as they face up to the cost of living crisis.

Her plan to tackle the looming spectre of giant energy bills by reversing the hike in national insurance has led to fierce criticism from her rival, who said the failure to target the poorest would lead to millions facing destitution.

Ms Truss said: “Of course, in any fiscal event a chancellor has to look at people on fixed incomes.

“I have already committed to a fiscal lock for pensioners. I have already committed to a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy.”

However, she said she was “not going to sit here today and write the budget.”

HeraldScotland:

Asked to give the name of a country which has grown its economy by cutting taxes, the Foreign Secretary said: “I give you the example of Britain where we cut corporation tax and we saw revenues increase.

“There is an example of where cutting taxes actually helped us attract more revenue into the Treasury and more growth into the economy.

“This whole language of ‘unfunded’ tax cuts implies the static model, the so-called abacus economics that the Treasury orthodoxy has promoted for years, but it hasn’t worked in our economy because what we have ended up with is high tax, high spending and low growth.

“That is not a sustainable model for Britain’s future.”

It was the tenth hustings of the contest. There are still two chances for party members to quiz the candidates before voting closes a week on Friday. 

Ms Truss remains, by some considerable distance, the favourite to win the contest.

Her team are reportedly already drawing up the cabinet and planning for the first 100 days of her premiership.

Before he stepped on stage last night, the former Chancellor unveiled a new campaign video, where he played on being the “underdog.”

"They say beware the underdog because an underdog has got nothing to lose," the gruff voiceover said.

During the hustings, the two also clashed over the appointment of an ethics advisor after the resignation of Lord Geidt who resigned over the Partygate scandal.

Ms Truss said a Prime Minister could not “outsource ethics.”

She said: “I do think one of the problems we have got in this country in the way we approach things is we have numerous advisers and independent bodies, and rules and regulations.

“For me, it’s about understanding the difference between right and wrong, and I am somebody who has always acted with integrity, I have always been clear about what I will do, I have followed through on my promises and been honest about the situation, and that is what I would do as Prime Minister.”

She added: “The culture of organisations starts at the top and that’s what’s important to me, and of course I would ensure the correct apparatus is in place so that people are able to whistle-blow if there are problems."

Asked if his government would be "more honest than the one we have?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Yes, that’s why I left the government.”

He promised to appoint an ethics advisor that will have “power and responsibilities to hold people to account.”

 

There were noisy protests outside, with around 40 demonstrators.

Some were chanting “Tory scum – out of Brum” while others criticised the UK Government’s policy on sending refugees to Rwanda.