Lib Dems V SNP: General Election race for third starts in Scotland

First Minister John Swinney (left) and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey (right). Credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats can become the third biggest party in the Commons after the General Election, overtaking the SNP, the party’s leader has said.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the Scottish Lib Dems’ election campaign, Sir Ed Davey said he thought there could be “more liberals than nationalists” in the new parliament.

Despite Sir Ed’s optimism, polling for the Lib Dems has remained fairly stable in recent years both in Scotland and the UK as a whole.

The party has spent almost a decade in fourth position, following the SNP’s landslide 56-seat rout in 2015 and the Lib Dem disintegration following five years in coalition.

SNP leader John Swinney however turned his sights on the Conservative-held seats in Scotland.

The First Minister visited Dumfries, part of Conservative Scotland Secretary Alister Jack’s Dumfries and Galloway seat, calling on people to vote SNP to “get rid of the Conservatives” and that his party can remove the Tories from “every single one of the Conservative-held seats in Scotland”

The Tories won six Scottish seats at the last general election, with the SNP’s Lisa Cameron later crossing the floor to join the Conservatives.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, Sir Ed pointed to four seats north of the border his party were targeting – all of which are currently held by SNP MPs.

These include Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire – a portion of which was held by ex-leader Charles Kennedy before he lost it to the retiring former SNP Westminster boss Ian Blackford – and Mid Dunbartonshire, the successor to the seat lost by former Lib Dem chief Jo Swinson to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan in 2019.

“We are a big part of the change that’s happening,” Sir Ed said.

“I think there is a massive desire to get rid of the Conservatives in Westminster and also, actually, to get rid of the SNP.

“I think we have a real chance, when we get to July 5 – the day after polling day – there will be more liberals than nationalists in the next parliament.

“I think the Liberal Democrats can be the third party in UK politics again.”

The Lib Dems had consulted on fishing proposals, Alex Cole-Hamilton said Credit: Michael Boyd/PA

On Monday, the party will launch its Scottish general election campaign, with Sir Ed joining Scottish party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The launch will focus on the provision of NHS dentistry – a devolved matter – with the pair set to claim the service has been neglected by the Scottish and UK governments.

Mr Swinney, Scotland’s First Minister, told Sky News: "If people want to get rid of the Conservatives then they’ve got to vote SNP to make sure that’s what happens.

“Right across the country, if people want to get rid of the Conservatives, the SNP is the best vehicle to do that.”

Questioned if he is focusing on the Conservative strongholds as Labour will “beat (his party) more easily in other areas”, Mr Swinney replied: “We’re going to take the campaign to every part of the country.

“On Saturday I was touring a number of constituencies in central Scotland which will be SNP-Labour contests, but here in the south of Scotland we’ve got an opportunity to remove a number of Conservative MPs who make up the Conservative representation who have supported austerity, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis, and inflicted that on Scotland.”

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