The Scottish Tories have already developed target seats and plans for the next UK general election – honing in on the north-east and south of Scotland. But with confidence high amid the SNP turmoil, the party’s chairman, Craig Hoy, insists the Conservatives will not be complacent in protecting the Union.

According to Mr Hoy, the Tories under Douglas Ross could perform just as well as the party managed under Ruth Davidson in the 2017 general election, as he stressed the party is “not putting a ceiling on our aspiration”.

The Conservatives will be targeting SNP seats at the next UK general election – particularly in the north-east where the Tories spent their party conference boasting that they are the only ones standing up for oil and gas workers.

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One MSP suggested that a strategy could even be drawn up to remove SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn from office in Aberdeen South, overturning his 4,000 majority.

But other targets have been identified – in Ayr, Perthshire, Angus and across the south of Scotland, where the Conservatives believe they have a chance to make gains from the SNP that could help Rishi Sunak cling on to the keys of Downing Street.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Mr Hoy said a year without an election or referendum, a rarity in Scottish politics, “is a time for us to prepare to get ourselves election-ready”.

He added: “So it's an opportunity, given that we've now identified the seats that we're going to be going for, and the kinds of seats we're going to be going for in Scotland.

“And that strategy is crystal clear - we are going after every vote we can get in Scotland, or particularly in those seats where we're up against the SNP.”

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Mr Hoy said that “given that we know how poorly the SNP has been running the country”, his party needs to draw up “some clear wholesale policies” that appeal to the public, as well as simply opposing independence.

He said: “I think that the country is looking to a party for competent government and policies that actually address their priorities.

“It is crystal clear since Humza Yosuaf took over that he cannot be sitting in Bute House or in the Scottish Parliament or in St Andrew's House, working at how to improve the country because he is firefighting the SNP’s internal machinations - they are completely riven with not just division but also with a sort of distrust.

“I can't see how he can be credibly doing his day job when he is firefighting on all the issues in relation to the internal machinations of the SNP.”

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But Mr Hoy acknowledged the SNP “are down but not out”.

He said: “So we can't be complacent. We have to fight for every vote.”

Since Mr Yousaf took over as First Minister amid the fallout of the SNP finances probe, Holyrood polls have suggested that Labour have overtaken the Tories and are closing the gap on the SNP.

Looking ahead to the party’s election strategy, Mr Hoy said “there will be different messages in different parts of the country”.

He added: “Our first and foremost message will be that only we can be the SNP in those seats.

“But then for example, in the northeast, we'll be focusing on oil and gas jobs, making sure that it is a just transition that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, when we move to renewables there is community benefit.

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“When you start looking at seats like Ayr, just completely forgotten about by the SNP, you go down to the south, an area that is completely forgotten about by the SNP in terms of things like infrastructure, and roads, connectivity, so it will be slightly different message in each area from the issues at play there.

“But the fundamental message is that the SNP aren't addressing those issues and we as the Scottish Conservatives will come forward with a clear alternative to show that we're focused on people’s priorities.”

Mr Hoy said the Tories are “targeting” the progress it made in 2017 when 13 MPs were returned to Westminster on 28.6 per cent of the popular vote.

He added: “That's the sort of result that we're targeting because while the election result in the rest of the UK could be tight, here in Scotland the route through could be making five, six, seven gains, possibly more.

“We're confident that we're developing the sort of policies that we can go to the electorate and say, We know you're tired of the SNP, we know the SNP have failed, but we also need to show that on the other side of the balance sheet, what the positives will be.”

The party chairman said this year was being used “to get ourselves match-fit for an election”.

Despite the SNP’s plans for independence on the rocks, Mr Hoy stressed “it would be very naive to think that Humza Yousaf is giving up on independence”.

Mr Hoy insisted that “Labour are probably taking Scotland for granted at the moment”, and suggested a deal with the SNP could be their route back to power at Westminster.

He said: “I think as the UK polls narrow, you are back to 2019 again, where the root for Keir Starmer into Downing Street could be through the deal with the SNP, which is why despite the fact that Anas Sarwar is talking tough on the Union, you had Angela Rayner the other day three times refusing to rule out not granting a Section 30 order.

“They are not giving honest and straightforward answers on the question of the Union.

“So we will be fighting on policy, but we'll also be pointing out we are the only credible strong whole-UK party.”

Despite confidence being high at this week’s party conference, there are suggestions of some disquiet amongst some MSPs over Mr Ross’s leadership of the Tories – sparked by comments the party leader made around tactical voting for other unionist parties at the next election.

Mr Ross has this week rowed back and clarified the comments, insisting he does not think people should vote for Labour ahead of his party – but some MSPs remain miffed, given the party has fallen behind Labour into third place in Holyrood polls.

One Tory MSP said: “With the Nats on the ropes, it’s a real chance to turn the attention on the Government’s record and be more grown up about things.

“But the tactical voting nonsense has helped nothing, it’s a huge distraction and one we didn’t need.”

Another Conservative MSP added: “I think Douglas has done a good job, particularly of late, of holding the Scottish Government to account and protecting the Union.

"But it’s probably fair to say that he has taken the party as far as he is going to be able to. He’s not going to be able to match what Ruth did for us in terms of public perception.

"It’s not clear whether anyone could do that. Maybe we need to be more honest with ourselves about that.”

Asked if the party is completely behind Mr Ross, Mr Hoy said: “Yeah, I think they are”, adding that “he's got the full support of the party behind him”.

He said: “I think in any organisation be a political organisation, business or even the media, there's always a disagreement about strategy in any organisation that is actually probably quite healthy.”