More Scots back Labour’s plan to cut later

44% of Scots back the Government’s "cuts later" message, compared with 38% who support the Tory policy to start cutting now before the recovery's been secured.

As reported in this morning’s Times, a poll for The Scotsman has seen Labour extending its lead in Scotland, up two points to 37 per cent, with the Conservatives down two to 18 per cent. It also shows that 44 per cent of Scots back the Government’s “cuts later” message, compared with 38 per cent who support the Tories’ policy to start cutting now before the recovery has been secured.

Among other findings likely to cheer Scottish Labour were:

22% felt Labour was being most honest with them on the economy, compared with 14% for both Conservatives and Lib Dems;

47% felt the deficit should be reduced through cuts, as opposed to 34% who would back increases in taxes and 20% who didn’t know.

The findings will pile further pressure on the Conservatives to make clear their plans for public spending, not least after a ComRes poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics found Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling 6% ahead of Cameron and Osborne on trust on the economy.

Writing in the News of the World, Gordon Brown made clear before the party’s annual conference last year that Labour would cut the deficit in half over the next 4 years, a measure which has since be put on a statutory footing in the recently passed Fiscal Responsibility Act. As of yet, no clear commitment of this kind has come from the Conservatives.

What is more, given that making cuts to tackle the deficit appears more appealing to Scots than tax increases, despite public services accounting for 22% of the economy North of the border, the Chancellor’s message that cuts in the future could be worse than those under Thatcher appears to fit with Scots views on how to tackle the deficit.

Meanwhile, further polling over the weekend suggests Labour’s support is increasing at the expense of the Conservatives. The figures in Scotland on Sunday show that:

• Across Scotland, Gordon Brown’s lead over David Cameron has increased from 9% last month to 12% now;

45% disagreed with the “More Nats Means Less Cuts” message launched in Alex Salmond’s speech to the SNP’s spring conference last weekend, compared with 25% who supported it;

• Asked about voting intentions at the general elections, 37% said they would vote Labour (up 2% from last month), 18% backed the Conservatives (down 2%), SNP support was steady on 24% and Lib Dem support fell from 15% to 14%;

The polls came as Scottish Labour completed its spring conference in Glasgow, with a clear message that the SNP should be seen as the Conservatives in disguise. In speaking to delegates at the conference, Gordon Brown said:

“David Cameron has the support of his very own highland division – a Scottish national Party that talks left, but votes right, whose mps have followed the Tories through the lobby in 2 out of every 3 votes since 2005.

In attempting to shrug of the polling data, Tory shadow Scottish secretary David Mundell insisted:

“In our 11 target seats across Scotland, our polling shows us poised to make gains in every corner of the country.”

However, in his analysis of the likely election results across Scotland, Lewis Baston, director of research at the Electoral Reform Society, wrote:

“The Conservatives still seem a weakened force, particularly in elections which are not proportional. While they should do better than their existing holding of one Westminster seat, their Commons delegation could well still fit into a taxi even if the party wins the UK election.”

Earlier this month, Left Foot Forward reported the findings of research for the Financial Times which reinforced the substantial difficulty that the Conservatives are going to have in their election campaign north of the border. The weekend’s findings will come as a boost to a Labour campaign which has been revived in recent months by a string of positive polling data, and a prediction by Tory grandee Lord Heseltine that the best the Conservatives could hope for would be a hung Parliament.

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