Has Labour lost Scotland for good?

The Conservatives could soon be the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament


There are now just 100 days to go until Scotland votes on the makeup of the new parliament at Holyrood, and the gloomy outlook for Scottish Labour is becoming difficult for its leaders to hide.

According to new polling published over the weekend,  the Conservatives are now snapping at the heels of Scottish Labour to become the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament.

The data, compiled by Panelbase for the Sunday Times and Heart FM, puts the SNP on 50 per cent of the vote in the constituency section and 48 per cent for the regional vote.

Scottish Labour have dropped two percentage points to 21 per cent in the constituency vote and are down three points to 19 per cent on the regional list section of the ballot.

The Scottish Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson, are on 17 per cent for both the constituency and regional list vote, while the Liberal Democrats languish on 6 per cent for the constituency vote and 7 per cent for the regional list section.

The Green Party finds itself on 3 per cent for the constituency and 5 per cent for the regional list section of the ballot paper.

According to the Scotland Votes website, such figures would see the SNP win 74 seats in the new parliament, 4 more than they won in 2011 on a truly historic night.

The Labour Party are, based on these figures, on course to lose 11 of the seats they won in 2011, down to just 26, with the Tories on 20, 5 more than they won in 2011.

The Lib Dems are set to secure 6 seats and the Greens 3.

The Panelbase figures also show that while Nicola Sturgeon remains by far the most popular politician in Scotland, with a net approval rating of +23, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is performing even worse than her predecessor Jim Murphy, languishing on a net approval rating of -13.

In contrast, Ruth Davidson for the Conservatives has a net approval of -9. Even Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, is ahead of Ms Dugdale with a net approval rating of -12.

Further figures compiled by Rob Ford of Manchester University suggest that Labour are on track to lose all 15 of their consituency seats held at Holyrood.

Based on the most recent polling, Ford calculates that Labour are 11 per cent down on their 2011 levels of support, while the SNP are up 8 per cent. He explained:

“A result in line with these polls would see 13 constituency seats fall to the SNP, while two further seats would be tight races between the SNP and the Conservatives with Labour coming third.

“Labour’s position may be even worse than the aggregate polling suggests, as their safest remaining seats tend to be in areas such as Glasgow and central Scotland, where swings to the SNP in the general election were largest … A constituency wipeout for Scottish Labour in 2016 would complete an extraordinary political collapse for a party which dominated Scotland at all levels just a decade ago.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday, SNP leader and first minister Nicola Sturgeon could not resist a dig at Labour’s misfortunes, saying she did not think a Labour government was now ‘a credible notion in any sense’.

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

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47 Responses to “Has Labour lost Scotland for good?”

  1. RolftheGanger

    Answer: Yes.

  2. David Lindsay

    Even the Left in Scotland, by no means dominant, has always been far less pro-Labour than in England, with ILP MPs returned after disaffiliation, with large-scale Communist Party activity, with Trotskyists openly elected to councils and to Holyrood, and so on. And Labour was no more founded in the Scotland of whoever you are about to list than it was founded in the Dorset of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Is Dorset the heart and soul of the Labour Movement?

    No one thought of Scotland as much of a Labour area at all until the 1960s, at the earliest; in the 1950s, it was regarded by all concerned as more of a Tory stronghold than the Home Counties. The place is still full of Tories, really. It is just that, for the time being, most of them vote SNP.

    It was not until 1997 that anyone thought of Scotland as a Labour heartland. In 2015, Labour won precisely one seat there and still managed 231 elsewhere, which would have been more than one third of the House, and more than four times the total of the third party (guess who?), even if it had won no Scottish seats whatever.

    The “Labour Scotland” fantasy of Scottish Labourites, Scottish Nationalists and English Tories was blown out of the water in 2015. Scotland now exists as far outside mainstream politics as Northern Ireland does. Arguably, even more so. But unlike Northern Ireland, this is entirely by Scotland’s own choice. Scotland has voted itself into irrelevance.

  3. Scottish Scientist

    If Scottish Labour want to win back leadership of Scotland they need 2 things.

    1) A new policy on Scottish independence
    1.a) expressions of regret of the leadership of Jim Murphy to side with “Better Together”.
    1.b) Support for independence or at least neutrality and encouragement – as a parent to a child who wants to follow a particular career – “Well if that’s what you want to do with your life, we, your parents will give you every encouragement and support” – translates as “Well if independence is what the people of Scotland want to vote for in a future referendum, which will we facilitate, we Scottish Labour will give Scots every encouragement and support in voting YES and making a success of it, even if some in Scottish Labour voted NO in the last indy-ref.

    2) A solid criticism of SNP failures which are very much like the failures of previous Hollyrood Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Executives. More on that in my next comment.

  4. Tommo

    SNP “Tartan Tories” who will say anything for a vote, have got Labour in a spin.

  5. Scottish Scientist

    A solid criticism of the SNP government’s record could be along the lines of my reply, quoted below, to SNP Government Finance Secretary John Swinney’s article in yesterday’s “Independent”

    “The SNP has 100 days to earn the right to keep Scotland moving forward”

    Far from keeping “Scotland moving forward”, the SNP government and the £2.6 billion annually allocated to “Justice” spending by Mr Swinney’s budgets in particular, is holding Scotland back, by funding a police state which is running amok, violating the human rights of Scots, obstructing us in our work and duties and crushing efforts to grow the economy.

    The economic damage is being done because the police, prosecution and courts have grotesquely incompetent leadership, from the likes of the SNP government’s Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland.

    This badly led police state is inflicting serious harm on productive, conscientious citizens, arresting them, stopping them doing their duties and work, seizing their essential equipment, thereby wrecking all they have to offer to society and the economy.

    Scots are being arrested for expressing their political viewpoints.

    Scotland has political prisoners. I know because I have been one such.

    Scotland has always been run as an oppressive police state – at least since the days of UK Prime Minister Thatcher. This is why intellectuals and academics supported a Scottish parliament – in the hope that we Scots might better bring the police state which oppresses us to heel, but none of the Holyrood governments have done so and the SNP are as hapless in police governance as their predecessors.

    So Mr Swinney is wrong and unpatriotic for continuing to budget for this destructive gangster, treacherous police state which is depriving Scots of our civil liberties and ruining the Scottish economy and impoverishing the country in the process.

    Mr Swinney in allocating £2.6 billion in “no strings” cash for the “Justice” portfolio is budgeting for economic failure and decline. He should hang his head in shame and withdraw his draft budget.

    That’s not to say that money should not be spent on keeping those prisoners who are imprisoned decently. But it would be cheaper to release all the political prisoners and let them get back to work.

    That is not to criticise legal aid payments for those innocents who are wrongly accused because everyone deserves a fair trial. But it is to say that many wrongful arrests and prosecutions should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.

    That is not to say that fire and rescue services (£310 million) are not worth every penny, showing the police up in a very bad light in comparison. The fire and rescue services ARE worth every penny! If the fire service were in any way as incompetent as the police they would be starting as many fires and they were putting fires out!

    There is much in Mr Swinney’s budget to support but MSPs are faced with a take it or leave it choice. MSPs will not be allowed to pick and choose which items of Mr Swinney’s budget to support and which to oppose.

    MSPs must either vote for or against all of Mr Swinney’s budget.

    The only responsible action for Members of the Scottish Parliament to do, is to vote down Mr Swinney’s budget and vote down every budget which proposes to pay excessive amounts of money to this appalling, unreformed, anti-Scottish, unjust police state.

    Mr Swinney’s budget is allowing the police state pigs to gorge themselves with their snouts in the public spending trough and any such budget will be the ruin of the Scots.

    I think putting our faith in the SNP while the SNP has faith in Mr Swinney’s budgets and Nicola Sturgeon’s Lord Advocates is a huge mistake for Scots to make.

    I think the SNP are wrong to keep feeding the police state pigs. That’s what I think.

    I’m all for Scottish independence but the feed-the-pigs SNP will be the ruin of us Scots. I cannot recommend a vote for the SNP in May’s Scottish parliament election.

    The SNP were good for a Scottish independence referendum – but that’s all they were good for. Enough. Be gone with you.

    An ALTERNATIVE BUDGET to save Scots from the police state.

    The fault for all of Scotland’s problems lies with certain items in the Justice portfolio of Scottish government spending WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN SLASHED BUT SHOULD BE SLASHED.

    Justice – £2,600 million annually

    The Justice portfolio has responsibility for the civil and criminal justice systems which include Scotland’s prisons, courts, police, fire and rescue services, the legal aid system and criminal justice social work services.”


    Here are some of my suggested cuts from some “Justice” items in the budget.

    Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – £1,063 million – Slash this by £663 million, down to £400 million

    Police Central Government – £98 million – Slash this by £58 million, down to £40 million

    Police and Fire Pensions – £350 million – Slash Police Pensions by £150 million – (no change to Fire Pensions) down to £200 million

    Scottish Prison Service – £396 million – Slash this by £196 million down to £200 million

    Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service – £112 million – Slash this by £82 million down to £30 million

    Courts, Judiciary and Scottish Tribunal Service – £40 million – Slash this by £20 million down to £20 million

    Scottish Court Service – £87 million – Slash this by £47 million down to £40 million

    Total saving – £1216 million

    £1.2 BILLION SAVED FROM “JUSTICE” TO SPEND, perhaps on Scotland’s green agenda?

    It could be done if there was a political will and the benefits to the economy could be massive for rarely explained reasons.

    Budgeting for a bad police state is far more damaging to the Scottish budget than most understand.

    It is not merely that an extra £1 spent on the police means £1 less which cannot be spent on schools, hospitals etc.

    It actually means a £1 spent on the police arresting an innocent citizen means something like £100 in lost taxes that that citizen cannot now pay because he or she is under arrest, has had their essential equipment seized by police or otherwise is being prevented from doing their work or other duties to society.

    So £1 spent on the police means something like £100 less to spend on schools, hospitals etc.

    There’s no easy way to know how much is lost in taxes for each person arrested and prevented from paying taxes but the main point to understand is that the economic and fiscal harm to the Scottish economy and budget is far more harmful than simply the money spent on the police state.

    It could be that £1,000 million (£1 billion) spent on the police means something like £100,000 million (£100 billion) is lost to the Scottish economy and budget. In other words, Scotland as a country could be much more wealthy than we are now if it were not for police state wrecking.

    Cutting the police state down to size would be the making of a modern fair and prosperous Scotland.

  6. Richard MacKinnon

    “Scotland has voted itself into irrelevance”?
    Everything up until the last sentence I agreed with. I even thought that this was a perceptive and interesting analysis.
    So please enlighten me Mr. Lindsay how is it that Scotland has voted itself into irrelevance? I don’t understand what you mean. Scotland is still here, proud of its representation.
    What is undeniable, is that Scotland has voted Labour into irrelevance both in Scotland and rUK. I will never get tired of reminding Labour supporters what part the SNP played in Labour’s downfall. Labour lost the 2015 GE because DM was not a strong leader, that Labour were not trusted on the economy but most important of all Labour lost because the English electorate feared an alliance between Labour and the SNP. Remember the posters of Alex Salmond with Milband in his pocket. That is why Labour are now irrelevant. The question is, are they about to become extinct?

  7. David Lindsay

    The SNP won almost every seat in Scotland, and for what? Third place, which it would have had even if it had won all 59. Only two parties matter at Westminster, and a party that contests, never mind wins, fewer than one eleventh of the House is never going to be one of them. Somewhere that elects pretty much only that party is voting itself into irrelevance.

  8. Richard MacKinnon

    Too little to late. There is no way back. The answer to the question posited by the article is, Yes.

  9. Alan59

    Vote UKIP Scotland !

  10. Jacko

    No, I disagree. Just think about recent policy announcements:

    1. Nuclear disarmament
    2. Handing the Falklands back to Argentina
    3. Letting migrants in Calais into the UK

    Real vote winners with the man in the street!

  11. Richard MacKinnon

    There may be only 56 SNP MPs but they are providing a stronger more disciplined opposition than Labour.
    Labour are a comedy turn. The front bench Jeremy, John, Emily, Dianne. All the sour faces on the back benches, teeth grinding in unison. It is the best show in town. Please don’t stop the party.

  12. David Lindsay

    54. Two are on the way to jail. There will be more to come.

  13. Scottish Scientist

    Scottish Labour have done too little, too late, agreed.

    However, were Scottish Labour to move decisively in favour of independence, even outflank the SNP

    – on independence – by
    * becoming a truly independent Scottish Labour party
    * rejecting the Edinburgh Agreement (which the people of Edinburgh never agreed to) opposing it as unjust because it gives 100% of Scotland to the UK on only 55% of the vote
    * calling for the immediate establish of an independent Scottish state on the basis of the 45% who voted YES, whose sovereign territory would initially comprise the 4 council areas where a majority voted YES
    * paint the SNP as timid on pushing for independence for sticking to the Edinburgh Agreement, betraying the 45% of YES voters and surrendering 100% of Scotland to the UK

    – on the left – by
    * more radical policies across the board – land reform, wealth tax, trade union law, a republic
    * declaring membership of the Queen’s privy council as incompatible with Scottish Labour membership forcing the likes of these “Red Tories” to choose who they are with – the Scottish people or the Queen

    Scottish Labour’s Privy Councillors
    Jim Murphy, Jack McConnell, Henry McLeish, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, George Foulkes, Brian Wilson, Tom Clarke, George Robertson, Adam Ingram, Helen Liddell, Anne McGuire, John Reid, John McFall

    If those “Red Tory” privy councillors resigned the Privy Council or were expelled from Scottish Labour for not resigning from the Privy Council – this would demonstrate a fresh start for Scottish Labour – that it really was the people’s party in comparison to the SNP which would presumably still have Privy Council members Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson.

    Then Scottish Labour could paint the SNP as Queen’s lackeys and betraying the rights of the Scots to establish an independent Scottish republic.

    In summary, if Scottish Labour could make these policy changes and outflank the SNP on independence and on the left – by being seen to more strongly support independence and the Scottish people’s rights to land ownership, wealth redistribution, trade union rights and rights to a republic, I believe that would indeed be a way back.

    Now if you keep saying “no way back” it is simply because you haven’t bothered to read and understand what I have written.

  14. Derick Tulloch

    Nobody has forgotten the Red Tories high fiving the Blue Tories on referendum night. Nobody has forgotten Gordon Browns tosh. He and “Lord” Darling are off counting their money now. a hundred thousand activists are going to work till they drop to be rid of “Labour”

  15. Ryan Malcolm McGuinness

    How about no.

  16. Tabman


  17. SC1

    Looking at the polling data the situation may get worse for them. Their bedrock support is in the older age bracket. It’s just not cool to support Labour in Scotland any more – They are seen as a old mans party.
    For years they got away with a pro-Scottish image. But ultimately they sided with the Tories in a project Fear campaign instead of siding with Scotland.

  18. DialMforMurdo

    Really, what criminal offences have the police charged them with?

  19. Paul Wilson

    So much for “if the Scots want independence then they will vote for it” said by both Thatcher and by Tavish Scott. What else do you propose that the Scottish voter does? All the unionists parties are finished up here it’s like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. The unionists are scrambling after an ever diminishing vote.

  20. Paul Wilson

    Evidence please. At least SNP Politicians do the decent thing they don’t have to go kicking and screaming like the unionist thieves and liars.

  21. Paul Wilson

    Precisely none. Yet another unionist troll posts rubbish.

  22. Paul Wilson

    And your unionist lot don’t, have a word most of them should be in jail for fiddling their expenses we have not forgotten!

  23. Paul Wilson

    They are at less than 1%

  24. Paul Wilson

    Get a life man! Boring or what just accept that the self serving, expenses cheating, lying two faced Labour party in Scotland got found out. Why don’t you open your post with the truth that there is no such thing as the Scottish Labour party it has never existed.

  25. Paul Wilson

    If pigs could fly. Stop lying! There is no Scottish Labour as fine you well know. There is only the Labour party Northern branch. How can you expect any one to take your posts seriously when you keep stating that lie?

  26. elaine skinner

    As an ex Labour voter who left after 40 years, along with many thousands of others…this is a real bad decision, we may have lost the Indy vote but many of us were deeply angered at the onslaught of Labour MPs from the south, around 100 coming up to Glasgow to con us. Now London Labour are insulting Scots again, we WANT to be ruled by Scottish parties in Scotland, NOT have London Labour leader and a few others to come up and interfere again and prove once more, Scottish Labour is just a BRANCH office! If this has sickened me to the core,it will many other ex Labour voters. The canvassers for Scottish Labour are already scaremongering the pensioners telling them that SNP are stopping the buspass and free prescriptions! https://twitter.com/gturner1969/status/691264589435146240 I’ll never return, Labour in Scotland are a shambles, does Corbyn really think we don’t deserve any better than those shower of selfserving careerists who only know two words SNP BAD. I was brainwashed with that for years till I found out the real facts, Scottish Labour wasn’t my friend, SNP was and has proved it in the 16 months since I became a member and activist. I know the difference, I was one of Brown’s activists.

  27. D MacGille-Mhuire

    Two on their way to jail, eh? You got insider info on this charade or are you simply trolling and smearing? Oh, and ca canny apropos Scots defamation laws which may not prove to be an irrelevancy despite your wishful thinking regarding the Scots body politic in general.

    Looking forward to your “considered” updates after the mauling British Labour receive at Holyrood come May.

    Tick tock, Britannia:)

  28. Scottish Scientist

    If “Scottish Labour” is a lie then it is not me who is telling it.

    If they are saying they want to be truly “Scottish” Labour then that a reasonable enough ambition. I would encourage that direction of travel and I am explaining the sort of measures it would take for “Scottish Labour” to become a truth and reality rather than a lie and an ambition.

    But I’m not holding my breath. I don’t see the leadership that is required coming from Kezia Dugdale.

    It would be a very different matter if I was to be elected leader of “Scottish Labour”. Then it really would be “Scottish” under my policies, as I’ve outlined above.

    Pigs don’t have to fly. They just have to follow my leadership.

  29. Scottish Scientist

    I’ve got “a life” of an intelligent person pointing out where the Scots are being betrayed by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government.

    It’s less of “a life” to turn a blind eye to where the government of the day is going wrong and to follow them without question.

    It is less of “a life” to have a lower intelligence and a short attention span and to be unable to understand politics other than in terms of “what party do you support?”.

  30. SonOfTheIsles

    Yes and it’s lost the plot too.

  31. Paul Wilson

    They and you are not saying that, they have been calling themselves Scottish Labour or the Scottish Labour party when they and you know it is a down right lie. There is no Scottish Labour. In any event it will take a dam sight more than a name change or few shadow cabinet members coming up here to turn things round for the Labour party Northern branch. I and many who would normally be regarded as safe Labour voters now feel so disgusted by the actions and move to the right by Blair and Brown that we no longer see Labour as the party of the left and think that in the general election they got what they deserved. As I said the Scottish electorate isn’t finished with the traitors yet they will be routed in May and then reduced to the status of the Lib Dums by the council elections of 2017

  32. Wendle Trendle

    The SNP’s dominance of Scottish seats means that politically Scotland is practicing a kind of abstentionist reality, it is unlikely there will ever me more than 1 Scottish Min. again.

    Politically the Union is dead, what ever referendum’s say.

    Labour are just seen as incompetent and corrupt Tories by most people in Scotland and that is a view that has been building since the 80s but there was no alternative.

    There is now.

  33. Wendle Trendle

    The Labour party in Scotland were so corrupt and so arrogant in dealing with their voter base that I think the SNP can be considered unbeatable for a 20 years.

    What ever beats them in time, it will not be the Labour Party.

    Will the last out the decade in Scotland?

  34. Wendle Trendle

    Interesting but I can’t see it happening. It would be some reversal of all their life long beliefs.

  35. Frann Leach

    That’s not really a “dig at Labour” is it? It’s just the truth.

  36. william

    As an Englishman and a Tory, I look forward to Scottish independence, partly because it seems inevitable, partly because the whinging resentment of the Scots while sucking eagerly on Westministers tit is so irritating but partly because it will prevent Labour governing in England ever again. The Guardian and BBC will disappear, welfare and the NHS will be abolished and income tax reduced to a flat 10p in the pound. Bring it on!

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