Clegg’s Scottish discomfort

Lib Dem support in Scotland has plunged by more than a half since the 2007 Assembly elections - and is down 5 points in the last five months alone.

Support for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland has plunged by more than a half since the 2007 elections to Holyrood according to new polling today, falling by 5 points in the last five months alone. With elections to the Scottish Parliament due in early May, the Lib Dems north of the border are feeling the heat as a result of the decisions and actions of their colleagues in London.

The results of the polling, carried out by TNS-BMRC show:

• The Lib Dems’ opinion poll rating has fallen by 5 points between August and January to 7%;

• Since gaining a 17% share of the vote in the 2007 elections, Annabel Goldie’s Conservatives have seen support drop to 9%. In August their share of support in the constituency vote was 12%;

• In the same August-January period, Labour rose by 7 points to 49%, the SNP rose 1 point to 33% and minor parties continued to flatline at 2%.

In assessing what the results mean, Chris Eynon from TNS-BMRC explained:

“The timing of this poll is significant, coinciding, as it did, with the increase in VAT to 20% on January 4 and following the student protests pre-Christmas over fee increases. The adverse publicity heaped on the LibDems, in particular over broken promises on student fees, has hit home.

“While, initially, their role in the coalition did not affect their standing with Scottish voters, the tide has clearly turned against them. With Conservative support also dropping by 3% since August to 9%, the coalition austerity measures are not going down well with Scottish voters.”

He continued:

“The gap between Labour and the SNP on the first vote has widened to 16%. Somewhat perversely, the loss of the General Election by Labour is proving a huge boon to the prospects of the Labour Party in Scotland, as they build a significant lead in voting intentions virtually by default.”

The results will also cast new doubts over the future of the Conservative leadership in Scotland, with the party’s leader at Holyrood, Annabel Goldie, having previously been lined up as the fall guy for the party’s abysmal general election performance which saw just one MP elected in Scotland for a second election in the row.

The results also suggest that in the event of a hung Parliament in which Labour were the largest party, a deal with the Lib Dems would be near impossible given how universally unpopular they now appear to be to Scots voters.

As the Herald concluded in an editorial:

“The Liberal Democrats used to refer English voters, sceptical of their ability to be a party of government after decades in opposition, to their successes in coalition with Labour at Holyrood.

“Eight months in coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster, however, appears to have robbed the Lib Dems of almost all credibility with voters in Scotland.”

The polls came as George Galloway, defeated at the General Election in Poplar and Limehouse, announced that he intended to run in the Scottish elections for a seat in Glasgow. In a fight that will see him clashing with that other, “modest” beast of Scottish politics, Alex Salmond, he launched a stinging critique of Holyrood, declaring:

“It’s my contention, you may think it’s rude, but I think it’s accurate, that today’s Scottish Parliament has too few real parliamentarians in it, heavyweight parliamentarians who would be recognised outside their own street, whose voice would be recognised if heard on the radio.

“It’s my view that too many, in Holyrood today, would regard the term ‘non-entity’ as an accolade and I think that’s bad for the Scottish Parliament. It’s bad for politics in Scotland.”

If Galloway is having trouble recognising MSPs, it might have a lot to do with the fact that the Scot seems to have spent so much time away from the country, standing in English constituencies in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections and now presenting programmes on Iranian news channel Press TV.

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