Could Conservatives overtake Labour in Scotland?

“The Conservatives can replace Labour as the main opposition party at Holyrood.”

That was the assessment of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Conservative’s only MP north of the border, David Mundell, over the weekend.

He was speaking after a new poll indicated that the Conservatives might just have begun squeezing Labour into third place.

According to the sub-data compiled by ComRes’s poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror, of those in Scotland saying they are likely to vote, asked how they would vote if there were a General Election tomorrow, 18% said Conservative, ahead of the 13% who said Labour.

At this stage, important caveats need to be added. This is just one poll, and a small sub set of a UK wide poll at that. Moreover, asking how voters would cast their votes in a UK General Election does not necessary give huge clues as to how they would vote in elections to Holyrood.

That said, the findings do fit with a pattern that has seen the gap between Scottish Labour and Conservatives narrowing considerably.

The findings come at the end of a year in which the Conservative leader at Holyrood, Ruth Davidson, has been judged to have performed well.

Feisty, young and energetic, she is a good communicator who has never been afraid to confront the UK wide party.

In October she dubbed the Chancellor’s changes to tax credits as simply “not acceptable” whilst in June she used an interview with the Guardian to declare that she was “a fully paid-up member of the ‘votes at 16’ club” following the experience of giving them and 17 year olds the vote in the independent referendum.

Speaking on BBC Fivelive’s Pienaar’s Politics’ programme yesterday, Scottish Secretary, David Mundell said of the state of the Conservatives in Scotland:

“There are strong signs now, I think, of a resurgence under Ruth Davidson’s leadership.

“She’s a dynamic young woman who has brought a real buzz to Scottish politics and is clearly the only person in the Scottish Parliament who is able to go toe-to-toe with Nicola Sturgeon and hold her to account.”

At the start of last week it was reported that the Scottish Conservative Party had decided to get rid of half of its candidates for next May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament to favour younger more moderate candidates able to appeal to voters from the centre ground.

According to reports in the Financial Times, Ms Davidson’s focus is on capitalising on Labour’s turmoil under Jeremy Corbyn, appealing to the 2 million unionist voters who opposed independence in last year’s referendum.

By the end of last week the party had confirmed those on the regional list section of the ballot papers for next May. This section of the vote is likely to prove crucial in determining how well the Conservatives do.

The growing optimism among Scottish Conservatives stands in contrast to the sense of gloom that continues to surround Scottish Labour. With Jeremy Corbyn providing no real bounce in the party’s fortunes north of the border, a number of polls have been predicting the party could end up with no constituency MSPs at all from next May.

Little wonder therefore that Scottish Labour now seems to be struggling to find enough people to stand in constituency seats.

20 Responses to “Could Conservatives overtake Labour in Scotland?”

  1. Brad JJ

    Ruth Davidson is an excellent person. In the parliament she speaks well and to the point. If I lived in her constituency, I would vote for her and I am a member of the Scottish Labour Party.

    The problem she faces is developing a political identity for her party which is distinct from the English Tories. She needs a theme and accommodating set of topics which encapsulate the vision she has for Scotland. Something we can all understand, like tech jobs, or new towns, or education. Something strong.

  2. David Lindsay

    What if the Conservatives became the Official Opposition in Scotland and made gains in Wales, with UKIP entering the Scottish Parliament and, in some numbers, the Welsh Assembly? The only great loss would be to those parties’ self-understanding and self-respect. They despise Scotland and Wales. Yet next year, no one is going to vote for them anywhere else.

    Meanwhile, at 44 seats out of 158 across the three Northern regions, the Conservatives presumably think that they have hit rock bottom up here. They have not. At the Greater Mancunian heart of their Northern Poorhouse and Northern Powercut, their share of the vote has just halved. Halved. Since May.

    Although it will be less remarked upon, 2020 is going to be for Labour in the North what 2015 was for the SNP in Scotland. The Conservatives are so indifferent to the North that they are allowing several of their seats here to be abolished by boundary changes. Do they even know that they have them? A very high proportion of their remaining voters here did not grow up here, with Southerners in the North far more likely to vote Conservative than Southerners in the South are. But their Northern-raised children are a whole other story.

    Wipe-out awaits. Place your bets as to the last Conservative seat in each of the North East (that’s easy), the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber. Losses on this scale are easily enough to cost that party its overall majority. When that happens, then it will finally be able to see the North of England.

    In the meantime, week after week, Labour is now recording local council gains all over the country, including in places to which the appeal of Tony Blair never extended even in his pomp. May’s English local elections are going to be a triumph. Capped by the recovery of the London Mayorality, possibly on George Galloway’s second preferences, but increasingly probably not.

  3. steroflex

    OK So I voted Tory in the last election. But I am looking round. I am English.
    I should have thought that the Scots who were left wingers would have their own representatives in the SNP. There are a lot of Tories up there.

  4. Cole

    But we were told ‘Jeremy’ would be so popular in Scotland.


    You are right. The SNP are complying with Tory policie re – Tax and Council Tax.. They are keeping old Tory privatised transport legislation.
    The Nats have continued with their anti Tory rhetoric and get away with it amongst many,
    Not much choice now. The real Tories should be pointing out how close the SNP are to them.

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