Sunaks leadership hopes in balance as Chancellor must convince Tories he can beat SNP

Nicola Sturgeon loses it in BBC interview after interruption

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The Chancellor is the hot favoruite to replace Boris Johnson in No 10 – with bookies predicting it being a two-horse race between him and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Mr Johnson’s future as Tory leader has been thrown into doubt by the partygate scandal over alleged lockdown-breaking gatherings at Downing Street.

The conclusion of an ongoing Met Police investigation into the furore could end his premiership, many observers claim.

And while Mr Sunak is seen as a safe pair of hands among Tory members in much of England and Wales – Scotland appears not to be so sure.

There are reportedly concerns that the Brexiteer’s credentials and image will not be enough to defeat Nicola Sturgeon’s rampant SNP.

The party narrowly avoided securing a supermajority in last May’s Holyrood elections.

But with the support of the pro-independence Scottish Greens, it is vowing to hold a second referendum on independence – dubbed Indyref2 – by the end of next year.

With this threat looming on the horizon, senior Scottish Tories have privately voiced concerns about Mr Sunak’s ability to take on the SNP.

One told the Telegraph: “Rishi has made it clear that he seems to be a good English nationalist but we need a whole lot more from him about how he plans to beat the SNP before some of us decide to vote for him.”

In addition, there are complaints that the Chancellor does not appear to have gone out of his way to recruit Scottish backers.

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Their concerns come despite the Chancellor recently giving Scotland record funding.

After holding talks with all the UK’s devolved administrations, Mr Sunak dished out an extra £220million to Scotland in December.

The SNP have also been accused of copying his policies but giving £150 rebate to many Scottish households as prices spiral.

And while he has he doubters – others believe he will be less toxic to Scottish voters than Boris Johnson.

Opinion polling carried out by YouGov in August 2020 found that he is by far the most popular member of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet among Scottish voters.

Mr Sunak has a net favourability rating of +7, compared with the Prime Minister’s rather unenviable -51, a feat of unpopularity only surpassed by Michael Gove on -57.

Despite the good news he is still nowhere near Ms Sturgeon, who led the field on +36.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice told the Politico website at the time that the Chancellor was “the one bright star in the Tory firmament, and that star is even capable of shining brightly north of the border, including among unionists.”

“If you look at Tory Cabinet ministers, he’s basically the only one you would send north,” he added.

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