The SNP face a tough challenge at the next election from a Labour Party which has its “mojo” back, veteran Perthshire MP Pete Wishart has warned.
He admitted the nationalists will have a fight on their hands in key battleground seats, particularly in west central Scotland.
Mr Wishart – who has been an MP since 2001 – is chairman of the influential Scottish Affairs Committee.
In 2022 he quit the party’s Westminster front bench with a swipe at Dundee-born Stephen Flynn for what he viewed as his ousting of Ian Blackford as Westminster leader.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Pete Wishart said he is looking forward to running in the next general election.
“After 23 years I’m just getting warmed up,” he said.
The Perth and North Perthshire MP was critical of Sir Keir Starmer’s recent comments about Margaret Thatcher, saying they had been a “terrible mistake” and show Labour is not chasing Scottish votes.
But Mr Wishart conceded Labour had strengthened since Sir Keir took over from former leader Jeremy Corbyn – who he said had made Labour “practically unelectable”.
Seeking re-election at the General Election expected next year, Mr Wishart is confident of his chances in the new Perth and Kinross-shire seat – which contains about 60% of the area he currently serves.
Rather than Labour, the Conservatives are likely to be Mr Wishart’s biggest challenger.
But he added: “This time around the challenge is more from Labour.
“I think it’s colleagues who’ve got a Labour-facing constituency where the challenge mainly comes from.
“They’re more concerned and anxious than I am.”
‘Tough election’ ahead for SNP
But with recent polling contradictory about how well the SNP will perform, Mr Wishart insisted it was “all to play for” in Scotland.
“They’ve got a sense of what they want to achieve,” he said.
Mr Wishart said the SNP’s most difficult contests will be in west central Scotland, though he suggested voters do not know what Labour stands for.
Mr Wishart said: “I’m not entirely sure people in Scotland have got a sense of what Labour is about now.
“They’re looking at a party that’s better led, better organised, better structured – but I don’t think they know exactly what the general offer is or what’s in it for them.
“But it’s going to be a tough old election, particularly in these battleground seats.”
Mr Wishart said the SNP’s messaging will see the party attempting to link the cost-of-living crisis with Scottish independence – saying it is a “cost-of-Westminster crisis”.