John Ruddy takes a look at recent Scottish polling against the backdrop of Labour’s continuing surge across the UK, and sees hope and ramifications.
The latest polling for Labour in Scotland is excellent news, and shows that having strong, competent leaders, both at Westminster in the form of Keir Starmer and at Holyrood with Anas Sarwar, is key to the revival of Labour fortunes north of the border. But there is more to come.
The latest slew of Scotland-only polls shows Labour clearly in second place in Scotland, and gaining 6 seats for a total of 7 if an election were held now. Alongside the 2 seats Scottish Labour have long been predicted to take from the SNP (Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath and East Lothian), polls from YouGov and Savanta ComRes show us picking up Glasgow North East, Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. This mostly seems to have come at the expense of Tory voters shifting to Labour, but while the SNP vote seems steady the polling indicates it is still soft in places, and other SNP seats are vulnerable.
For a long time the SNP have majored their election strategy, both at Westminster and Holyrood, on an “anti-Tory” theme. After all, it was one that worked well for Scottish Labour from the 80s onwards. But while our use of it lasted 20 years, the SNP’s looks set to vanish as Labour is increasingly expected to form the next UK Government.
If you ask people “Do you fear a Tory government?”, many will answer yes. The things that we have seen come out of the Tory party conference this week are giving even die-hard Tory voters cause for concern. But ask people in Scotland “Do you fear a Labour government” and the answer will be much different.
Keir Starmer now has a higher net approval rating in Scotland than Nicola Sturgeon. People like to have leaders who are competent – after all, that’s one of the attributes that has sustained Sturgeon’s popularity (well at least the appearance of competence). Keir is laying out his stall, showing how a Labour government will do things differently, and support people on low and middle incomes while getting the richest to pay a fair share.
And with nothing to fear from a UK Government – in fact with plenty to like – why should people need to vote for someone to protect them from that government? “Stronger for Scotland” becomes an obsolete phrase. If just a fraction of those soft SNP voters decides to switch to Labour (or even to stay at home), then thanks to the relatively slim majorities many SNP seats have over Labour, we could see a swathe of red sweeping the central belt. With a drop in SNP support from 45 to 40, and the equivalent increase in the Labour’s vote share, we’d pick up a total of 21 seats in Scotland – sending Keir well on his way to Downing Street.