Jeremy Hunt's Budget will hurt Scottish Tories at general election

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Scottish Conservatives will pay price for Chancellor's decision on windfall tax on oil

Despite the Tories' dire poll ratings across the UK and the inability of Rishi Sunak to turn around his party's fortunes, Scottish Conservatives were optimistic of a better performance when the general election comes.  That was until last week's Budget.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's decision to extend the windfall tax on the profits of the oil and gas companies came as a blow to the Scottish Tories who had been pressing him not to do so. 

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Just days before the Budget, the Scottish Conservatives had held their conference in Aberdeen and its whole theme had been to underline the party's support for oil and gas, the industry which has been so crucial to the North East for so long, but which now faces decline.

Scottish Tory pleas to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt over the windfall tax on oil companies fell on deaf ears.
Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesScottish Tory pleas to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt over the windfall tax on oil companies fell on deaf ears.
Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Scottish Tory pleas to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt over the windfall tax on oil companies fell on deaf ears. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images | Getty Images

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross had personally lobbied the Chancellor over the windfall tax ahead of the Budget, but it is now clear his message fell on deaf ears.  Following the Budget, Mr Ross has spoken out strongly against the Chancellor's move and says he will vote against it in parliament. 

And he and other Scottish Tories have promised to continue lobbying for the decision to be reversed. But refusing to endorse the Chancellor's "betrayal" of the North East and calling in vain for U-turn is unlikely to impress anyone - the point of being in government is to make policy, not to lobby about it.     

Just a couple of weeks ago the Scottish Tories were talking confidently about their "six plus six" strategy for the election - hoping to hold onto the six seats they won last time and gain another six from a faltering SNP.

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It's 27 years since Tony Blair's 1997 Labour landslide when the Tories were wiped out in Scotland and left with no MPs.  At each of the next four general elections they only managed a single MP.  But in 2017, the party won another 12 seats, giving them 13 in all. The Tory triumphs included ousting two SNP big names, Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson, from their North East seats.

Those seats are still in Tory hands. But for how long now? The Tories believed the SNP's own poor showing in the polls gave them a reasonable chance of holding their own at the election and even building on it. But unless Mr Hunt has a change of heart it looks like the Tories in Scotland could experience the same rejection as the party is predicted to face everywhere else in the UK.

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