Independence minister defends ‘make Scotland Tory free’ messaging

Scotland’s independence minister has defended the SNP’s “make Scotland Tory free” messaging, describing it as “clear and straightforward”.

Jamie Hepburn’s comments come after the party’s longest serving MP Pete Wishart said he would not use the message in the upcoming general election campaign.

At the start of the year, First Minister Humza Yousaf said the upcoming election is the chance to make Scotland Tory free and, addressing SNP activists in Perth on Saturday, he used the phrase “Tory free” multiple times.

Mr Hepburn denied that the Tory free rhetoric is unravelling when questioned about it in an interview on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

Asked whether it is unravelling, he said: “I don’t think so, I think it’s a very clear and straightforward message.”

Ahead of an expected Westminster vote in the latter part of this year, the SNP has set its sights on wiping out the Conservatives in Scotland, aiming to win all seven of the seats they currently hold there.

Mr Hepburn said: “It’s time for them to go and I think it’s a very clear and straightforward message.

“We know that in most seats the battle is a direct one between the SNP and the Tories, people want the Tories to go, we have the chance to get rid of Tory MPs in Scotland and make Scotland Tory free, and the way to do that is by voting SNP.”

He added: “I think if we look at the opinion polls people are already coming to the conclusion that the Tories’ time is up and if people want to get rid of the Tories, as seems to be the case from the opinion polls and that’s certainly that’s the sense I get on the doorsteps, then it is a very straightforward proposition.”

On Sunday, Mr Wishart – the party’s Perth and North Perthshire MP since 2001 – said he would not be using the Tory-free messaging.

“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,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

However, the Scottish Tories pointed out Mr Wishart had already used the phrase in a post on X just over a week ago.

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said on Sunday the First Minister’s “divisive rhetoric” was 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.”