Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is to claim his party can gain seats in every part of the country in May’s Holyrood election – and could stop Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP winning the overall majority it needs to push for a second independence referendum.
The Lib Dems are currently the smallest of the five political parties in the Scottish Parliament, with five MSPs.
Polls show the SNP could be on track to win an overall majority, but Mr Rennie will claim that by increasing the number of Lib Dem MSPs, his party could “make the difference between a government that can do whatever it wants, however damaging, and a government that has to listen”.
He will insist neither the Tories nor Labour – both of whom have new leaders in Scotland since the last election – will be able to achieve this.
Mr Rennie will tell supporters at his party’s spring conference on Saturday: “The Liberal Democrats can make the difference at the next election.
“We can make gains in every region. We can win new seats.
“The Conservatives can’t. They have replaced Ruth Davidson, who was popular, with Boris Johnson’s choice of leader – who is not. Their tide is running away. They are set to lose seats. Every poll says so.”
Speaking about new Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who was only voted into the job a week ago, Mr Rennie will claim he “will take time to find his feet” and as a result, “Labour are unlikely to make the necessary progress on their own”.
Meanwhile the Scottish Greens “will always back the SNP when they need them”, the Lib Dem will say.
He will tell supporters: “The Liberal Democrats, with our plan to put recovery first, are ready to win more seats.”
Instead of focusing on the constitution, he will pledge Lib Dem MSPs will work “with others to win in Parliament on education on mental health and on the budget”.
Mr Rennie will declare: “I am ready to lead the Liberal Democrats to the gains that will put recovery first.”