The Scottish Conservatives have been accused of "lying" to voters after using national poll results on local leaflets, wrongly implying they were far ahead of the Labour party in constituency election fights.
The leaflets have been sent out in Scottish Conservative target seats where the party fears Labour could take away pro-UK votes. They feature graphs appearing to show Labour has no chance of winning in these areas, including Edinburgh South, the constituency Labour won in Scotland in 2015.
However, the Panelbase poll from April quoted on the leaflet is actually based on responses from people across Scotland and not just in the constituencies named on the leaflets, which gives the impression the Tories are second locally and Labour is lagging behind in third.
The Labour candidate defending the Edinburgh South seat, Ian Murray, told BuzzFeed News that Ruth Davidson's party was "taking voters for complete fools" and said the misinformation on the leaflet risked an SNP victory in a seat that delivered a decisively pro-UK vote in the 2014 referendum.
Murray, the former shadow Scotland secretary, is the odds-on favourite to retain the Edinburgh South seat and Scottish Labour insiders are highly confident of another victory in the constituency at the general election this Thursday.
Murray – the only Labour MP elected in Scotland in the 2015 general election – won the seat with a majority of just under 3,000 two years ago with the SNP in second place. The Scottish Conservatives came in a distant third place with just over 17% of the vote.
"I was incredibly angry when I saw it, but it was brought to my attention by even angrier residents in Edinburgh South," said Murray. "Not only is this a misinterpretation of the truth, it doesn’t say anywhere in the leaflet that it’s a national poll – it implies that it’s an Edinburgh South poll.
"I was inundated yesterday with people calling my office wondering how they could complain to the Electoral Commission and the Scottish Conservative party. They’ve lied to people – this is a straight fight between Labour and the SNP and anyone who says it’s not doesn’t know anything about this constituency."
Murray said the leaflet from the pro-UK Scottish Tories is "risking an SNP MP" taking the Edinburgh South seat on Thursday as it could split the pro-UK vote between him and the local Tory candidate, Stephanie Smith.
The Labour candidate added that, if the Conservatives genuinely believed they could take the seat from him, their activists would have been campaigning in the area – but he said the Tories had been pouring their resources in the city into the neighbouring seat of Edinburgh South West.
The Labour MSP for East Lothian and former Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, said similar Conservative leaflets had appeared in the Labour target seat of East Lothian, and Labour activist Cat Headley tweeted an image of a leaflet with the same polling graphic in the Lib Dem target seat of Edinburgh West.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives insisted the graphs are "clearly labelled" and said that the poll results show their party is "best placed to take the fight to the SNP at this election".
"With Jeremy Corbyn saying he is ‘absolutely fine’ with another independence referendum, voters know that Labour can’t be trusted on the union," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
"A vote for the Scottish Conservatives will send the SNP a message that they should take a second independence referendum off the table and get back to the day job.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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