Conservatives lead Labour (again) in Scotland

SNP projected to pick up two more seats than in 2011


Labour’s Scottish headaches continue unabated as new polling over the weekend suggests that the Conservatives continue to be snapping at their heals for second place in May’s elections to Holyrood.

According to the polling conducted by Panelbase for the Sunday Times, Labour are on 19 per cent of the constituency vote, just marginally ahead of the Conservatives on 18 per cent. The SNP are on 51 per cent with the Lib Dems on five per cent.

On the regional list section of the ballot, the Conservatives are just ahead of Labour on 19 per cent, with Labour on 18 per cent of the vote. The SNP meanwhile are on 47 per cent with the Lib Dems on four per cent and Greens on eight per cent.

Putting aside the SNP picking up two more seats than 2011, according to the Scotland Votes website, should such results be applied universally across Scotland, the Conservatives would become the second largest party at Holyrood with 24 seats up from the 15 they gained in 2011. Labour meanwhile would slump to just 22, down from the 37 MSPs they secured in 2011.

Such results mirror the finds of polling by YouGov for the Times last week which showed the Conservatives on course to become the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament, and Scottish Conservative Leader, Ruth Davidson, seen as the preferred candidate to lead the principle opposition party.

The results coincide with a paper published by the Electoral Reform Society on the Scottish elections. Written by Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University it argues that the SNP could perform so well under the first-past-the-post constituency section of the vote that, under the electoral system used, a vote for them in the regional list section, using a form of proportional representation, could be wasted.

Noting that current polling suggests the SNP could take just two list seats, Curtice writes:

“That would appear to imply that under this scenario many a list vote for the SNP would be ‘wasted’, that is it would fail to contribute towards the election of an MSP.

“Indeed, under our scenario that proves to be case for any regional list vote cast for the SNP anywhere other than in the Highland and Islands region, the only region where the party is projected to win any list seats.

“That this situation could arise in a number of regions, given the SNP’s current standing in the polls, has led to speculation that nationalist supporters might be wise on the second ballot to vote tactically for a different party, such as the Greens or the left-wing RISE grouping, both of which also support independence.

“That way their vote might contribute to the election of another independence-supporting MSP rather than apparently be wasted, though this is not a strategy without risks.”

The findings come as the SNP will this week launch its manifesto for the elections with a call for the Scottish Parliament to approve a second independence referendum, if, in the words of Nicola Sturgeon over the weekend, there is ‘clear and sustained’ evidence that most Scots want to leave the UK.

Such a commitment will prove controversial given the assurances given by many senior figures in the SNP that the 2014 referendum was a once in a generation event.

On the Andrew Marr show, Yvette Cooper MP brushed off a question about the existential threat that Brexit combined with a second Scottish referendum would pose to Labour.  She argued that it would more importantly be an ‘existential moment for the country’.

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.