The challenges facing Jim Murphy are immense

The new Scottish Labour leader will need to show Scottish voters that the party north of the border is able to think independently.

The new Scottish Labour leader will need to show Scottish voters that the party north of the border is able to think independently

As Jim Murphy begins his first week at the helm of Scottish Labour, he would do well to contemplate the Sun/You Gov poll of Scottish voters published over the weekend.

The good news for Scottish Labour is that when voters were asked which of the candidates to lead the party they preferred, Jim Murphy came out on top, enjoying the support of 29 per cent of respondents. That, however, is about all there is to cheer about, given that 52 per cent simply did not know who would make the best leader.

The news gets grimmer still. Asked which party leader on a UK stage is doing best at their job, Ed Miliband gets the support of just eight per cent of voters north of the border, behind Nigel Farage on 10 per cent, David Cameron on 19 per cent and the new first minister Nicola Sturgeon on 43 per cent.

With a General Election next year, voting intention polls suggest that it could be in Scotland that Labour’s hopes of making it to Downing Street are shattered.

Asked how they would vote, 27 per cent said Labour, a full 20 percentage points behind on the SNP who enjoy the support of 47 per cent of respondents, up by four per cent since the last poll of this kind carried out by YouGov in October.

The Conservatives meanwhile are on 16 percent, up one per cent from October, while the Lib Dems in Scotland have slumped to just three per cent of the vote.

According to the Scotland Votes seat calculator, if replicated at the General Election next year, these results would see the number of Scottish Labour MPs fall from 41 to just six. The SNP meanwhile, would increase their representation at Westminster from six to 52.

The Scottish Lib Dems would lose 10 of their current 11 MPs while the Tories, despite increasing their share of the vote, would lose the 1 MP they currently have in Scotland.

Asked how they would vote if there were an independence referendum tomorrow meanwhile, 48 per cent of voters said yes, while 45 per cent said no.

51 per cent of respondents felt that the Smith Commission’s proposals for further devolution for Scotland don’t go far enough.  The sense of alienation with Westminster is palpable; 55 per cent of respondents said they have more confidence in the Scottish Parliament to make the right decisions for them and their family. Just 17 per cent said Westminster.

Jim Murphy should this morning be considering how he can carve out a reputation for himself as a Scottish politician for Scotland, rather than a product of the Westminster machine of which he has been part of since 1997.

It’s not an impossible task – but the polls show that it will require him taking a stand against the UK wide Labour Party. He will need to show Scottish voters that the party north of the border is able to engage in independent thought and take different policy decisions to those of Miliband et al.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.