A double bombshell for Scottish Labour

There is widespread support for another referendum; now Labour must persuade the electorate that May is not a proxy vote for independence


Scottish Labour faces a double bombshell this morning, with new polling not only suggesting near wipe-out for the party in May, but showing that a majority of people now support independence.

The data, collected by Survation for the Labour-supporting Daily Record newspaper, has found that with undecideds and won’t says taken out, 51 per cent of people in Scotland would vote for independence compared to 49 per cent who would reject such a proposition. This is the first poll to put independence in the lead since September’s referendum.

More worryingly still for the pro-union parties, 60 per cent of respondents expressed support for another referendum being held within the next 10 years, despite declarations in September that the last vote had settled the issue ‘for a generation’.

Meanwhile, in the week that Ed Miliband ruled out any coalition agreement with the SNP following the election, today’s poll puts the SNP on 47 per cent, up two percentage points from Survation’s poll last month. Labour are on 26 per cent (-1), the Conservatives are up one point to 16 per cent, and the Lib Dems are on four per cent (down one point) with no changes on the seven per cent of voters who plan to vote for another party.

According to the calculations, if replicated across the country, the SNP would secure 53 of Scotland’s 59 seats with Labour slumped to just five MPs north of the border and the Lib Dems losing all but one of its seats.

Seeking to move attention away from independence and towards the General Election, Scottish Labour’s lead Jim Murphy has once again responded to this poll by telling voters that a vote for any party but Labour will lead to a Conservative government. He concludes:

“There is only one party across the UK that is big enough to stop the Tories being the largest party and that’s Labour.

“Now that it’s 100 per cent certain that there won’t be a Labour and SNP coalition there’s only one way to beat the Tories.

“A vote for anyone other than Scottish Labour risks the Tories being the biggest party and David Cameron returning to Downing Street by accident.

“That would be a terrible outcome for Scotland but it’s what could happen if this poll is repeated on election day.”

Unsurprisingly, the SNP have welcomed the results. The party’s leader at Westminster Angus Robertson has concluded it ‘shows that support to give Scotland a strong voice at Westminster by returning a team of SNP MPs to stand up for Scottish interests remains very high’. He continued:

“By contrast, Labour continue to pay the price for being on the same side of so many arguments as the Tories, including their joint commitment to imposing even more spending cuts.

“We take nothing for granted and will work extremely hard to win people’s trust on May 7 so that we can deliver jobs and growth in place of Westminster cuts, power for Scotland and the non-renewal of useless and expensive Trident nuclear weapons.”

Speaking exclusively to Left Foot Forward, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has noted that for Labour to gain a recovery would require three things:

  1. Showing to voters in Scotland that Westminster is relevant to their lives;
  2. Persuading voters that May is not a proxy vote for or against independence; and
  3. Gaining traction for its vision for a fairer society to counteract Nicola Sturgeon’s campaigning efforts in this direction.

Whether or not this can all be achieved between now and polling day remains to be seen.

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

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