Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


Double blow for SNP in new YouGov Scotland poll: support for independence down & more MP losses projected

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

But they should still be top party at Holyrood

We get so few Scotland only polls these days that when a new one comes out, as this morning, it is quite an event.

It is extraordinary to recall that just two years ago the SNP could do no wrong. In the aftermath of Scotland’s September 2014 IndyRef for the party surged and at the 2015 General Election the SNP picked up 56 of the countries 59 Westminster seats.

In doing so Labour was absolutely smashed. From holding 41 Scottish seats in 2010 they were reduced to a single MP.

All this meant that after the 2015 General Election the SNP became the third party at Westminster pushing the Lib Dems out of the position they had held for decades.

Then came the June 2017 surprise General Election which the SNP was the only major party at Westminster to oppose. The 56 MPs of 2015 were cut to just 35 and its Scottish vote share declined by 14 points.

Today’s new YouGov Scotland poll suggests that worse things are in store for Sturgeon’s party north of the border. It could be down to 27 MPs and support for a second IndyRef and independence are declining.

The poll suggests that in MP total terms the main beneficiary of the change would be LAB which could see its total of Scottish MPs increased by 10. So good news for Mr Corbyn provided the poll is right and of course this holds until the next general election whenever that will be.

Mike Smithson


Survation Scotland poll offers great potential for Corbyn

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Picture: Latest Survation Scottish Westminster VI poll translated into seats

Over the last day or so Survation have released their Scotland specific polling, and it presents get potential for Corbyn.

Survation say

If we input today’s published vote share figures into Baxter’s Scotland model, modelling today’s figures against the vote share the parties achieved at the General Election we can see the effect on seats at play.

Although the SNP has essentially the same vote share in today’s polling as at the GE and despite the Conservatives having the worst showing overall in this poll, Labour’s slightly improved fortunes vs. the election mean that the party would pick up 7 seats – from the SNP. SNP held Fife would go Lib Dem, with the SNP picking up just a single seat – Stirling – from the Conservatives.

With most of the GB wide polls and the polling averages indicating it being very close between the Tories and Labour an improvement in Scotland will help Labour get ahead of the Tories in seats and correct the imbalance in the electoral system which favours the Tories at present.

The one thing people should remember is given the quite violent swings we’ve seen in Scotland over the last two general elections making long term predictions about events in Scotland can be quite risky.

The other impact of this polling is if the Scottish Tories are destined for third place in Scotland it could force Ruth Davidson to focus her attentions on Westminster. My own personal belief, gleaned from being a member of the Tory party for over 20 years, is that were she to stand to be Theresa May’s successor, she’d win.

Forget the Brexit ideological issues, the Tories want to win the next general election, and Ruth Davidson is perceived to be a winner among many Tories, being a Remainer won’t be an impediment to becoming to Tory leader, just ask Theresa May.

There was also a question on another indyref.

Anyone who gets overexcited by a 1% change really needs to calm down, the overall figure can be seen in two ways.

1) This is is a really shocking poll for the Independence movement, given the fiasco at Westminster, especially over Brexit, you’d think Scots would be desperate to be Leave the Union, but no, they still want to Remain part of the Union.

2) This is a really shocking poll for the Unionists, at the start of the last indyref No had a much larger leader which was whittled away by voting day, a six point lead won’t be sufficient if the next indyref campaign follows a similar to the last one.

Survation also conducted some Holyrood specific polling, which I’ll cover in more detail in a later post.



The new election reality: The Tories need the SNP to impede LAB’s revival in Scotland

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Table – Commons Library

Why BoJo/Andrea/Phil/David/Amber might be cheering Nicola on

The group of constituencies that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past two general elections have been the 59 seats in Scotland.

At GE2010 when Labour lost power there were no changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the huge changes in 2015 in the aftermath of the IndyRef nine months earlier. LAB lost all but one of the 41, the LDs lost 10 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

The SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats and displaced the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

Move on to June 8th this year which proved to be something of a disaster for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto the 35 listed above all of them with much reduced majorities.

    Two years after gaining 50% of the Scottish vote the SNP’s biggest vote share in any constituency was 46.7% leaving a lot prospective rich pickings for the main national parties particularly LAB

If LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will be made up from battles with the SNP not the blue team.

One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger.

So in many ways whoever is Tory leader at the next election might be secretly cheering the SNP on.

Mike Smithson


Why the Corbynite candidate might not win the Scottish Labour Leadership

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Following Kezia Dugdale’s resignation as Scottish Labour Party Leader the race to succeed her has been an interesting one, with much attention focused on the Yorkshire accented former public schoolboy Richard Leonard, who is now second favourite behind Anas Sarwar.

The findings from YouGov show that Scottish Labour members are more centrists than those in the rest of Britain, and Jeremy Corbyn’s views and charms haven’t had the same effect in Scotland than in the rest of Britain, so on this basis I think the odds are right in back Mr Sarwar.

But given the unexpected six gains Corbyn oversaw in Scotland on June 8th might make Richard Leonard’s brand of Corbynism might make him attractive to Labour members in Scotland, especially as of Corbyn’s former top aides is now working on his campaign. 

The Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, ex officio, has a seat on [Labour’s] ruling national executive council. The key decision-making body is currently finely-balanced between moderates and the party’s left-wing, but a victory for Mr Leonard will tip it in Mr Corbyn’s favour. So the result in Scotland will have an impact south of the border too.

Personal experience tells me you should never underestimate a former public schoolboy with a Yorkshire accent.

You can access the next Labour leadership market by clicking here and you can read about the runners and riders in this race by clicking here.



If CON, LAB, and the SNP each got 30% of the Scottish vote Sturgeon’s party would be down to just 6 MPs

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

The Times

Why the SNP could be in trouble

There’s a fascinating analysis in the Times by James Kanagasooriam of Populus of what would happen in Scotland’s 59 seats if the hree main parties there CON, LAB and the SNP each secured 30% of the vote. The projected seat totals are in the chart.

The balance of the 59 Scottish seats would go to the LDs which would once again return to its historical position as the third party st Westminster.

The reason is, of course, the first past the post voting system which favours those with large variations in support in different seats and penalises those parties whose support is more evenly spread.

Kanagasooriam notes:

“..Labour’s “youthquake” delivered surprising levels of support for the party. This was especially true in Glasgow and Edinburgh; particularly when comparing the Labour 2017 general election performance (27 per cent) with the Scottish parliament election the previous year (19 per cent on the constituency vote). It’s clear that younger voters, and those more inclined to want an independent Scotland defected to Labour in large numbers during the general election campaign. The Tory surge was, to a degree, expected. The return of Scottish Labour less so. Both together lead to losses that SNP politicians and advisers could scarcely believe on election night.

… a large number of 2015 SNP supporters simply stayed at home this year. Areas with the highest SNP vote share in 2015’s general election experienced the biggest decline in turnout in 2017…”

Back at GE2015, on 26 months ago the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats north of the border which was reduced to 35 at GE2017. Given the volatility of UK politics big changes can happen in short period as we saw with UKIP between 2015 and June 8th.

With so many rich picking apparently available in Scotland with the SNP’s decline the UK parties, as I was suggesting last week, should select leaders who are Scottish. LAB under Gordon Brown increased its Scottish vote share at GE2010 while falling back sharply elsewhere.

Mike Smithson


Why the Tories, Labour and the LDs should ensure that their next leaders are Scottish

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Remember Gordon Brown’s LAB and Charles Kennedy’s LDs GE2010 & GE2005 Scottish performances

I’ve published the above chart before – the experience of LAB at GE2010 which totally knocked on the head the notion of uniform national swing.

We all know that election wasn’t a good one for Gordon Brown’s LAB. They lost power after suffering huge seat losses. There was one part of the UK which bucked the overall trend Scotland.

Whereas in England LAB was down more than 7.4% in Scotland the party in increased its vote share by 3.1% and came away with 41 of the 59 seats north of the border.

    So extraordinarily LAB’s average vote change in Scotland at GE2010 was a whopping 10.5% better in Scotland than in England. The reason was simple – the LAB leader, Gordon Brown, was Scottish.”

As was remarked at the time by a prominent Scottish politics academic “Brown maybe a bastard but he’s OUR bastard.” I’ve often thought that a contributory factor to Labour’s GE2015 Scottish disaster when it lost 40 of its 41 seats was that the party no longer had a Scottish leader.

At GE2005, when the LDs were last led by Scottish leader, the late Charles Kennedy at GE2005, they won 13 of the 59 seats north of the border making them the second party in terms of Scottish MPs at that election.

With Scottish politics in a state of flux at the moment there it looks as though next time, when ever that is, could see a lot more movement in Scotland.

The Tories there have a strong figurehead – Ruth Davidson and TMay’s part in the 12 Scottish gains was minimal.

So who could the three national parties choose? It’s said that Vince Cable is keeping the LD leader’s seat warm for Jo Swinson; it is conceivable that a way could be found for the Tories to elect Davidson as national leader, but it is hard to see a suitable LAB figure.

Mike Smithson


Tactical voting didn’t win it for the Scottish Tories

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

But genuine gains from the Lib Dems and Labour did.

Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister today if the Scottish Tories had done as badly three weeks ago as they did in 2015 (or any of the previous four elections). Without the dozen gains north of the border, a deal with the DUP wouldn’t have given her the numbers and a deal with anyone else couldn’t have been done. It would have been game over.

Given the different nature of politics in Scotland, where the unionist-nationalist split is at least as potent as the progressive-conservative one, that raises the intriguing question as to whether tactical Labour and/or Lib Dem unionist votes – to keep the SNP out – had the unintended but very real effect of keeping Theresa May in.

In fact, no, they didn’t. Indeed, one unremarked feature of the Scottish results was how unchanged the Labour and Lib Dem shares were in the seats the Tories won. In more than half of the 13 constituencies, neither other unionist party put on or lost more than 5% in vote share. In these, the swing must have been dominated by direct SNP-Con switchers.

Of the six seats where there was a change of more than 5% in the Lab or LD share, the common feature is that the change was always a decline from the party which won in 2010 but which lost the seat in 2015. That might be evidence of tactical voting but more likely is that it’s simply the incumbency bonus unwinding. In a few cases – East Renfrewshire or Gordon, for example – there may well also have been an unwinding of a pro-Lab or pro-LD tactical vote from 2015.

In fact, in two of the three seats that went LD-SNP-Con, Labour also polled substantially better in 2017 than 2015 (where they lost, or came close to losing, their deposit), again suggesting a lack of tactical voting. Besides, in only one of the seats (Stirling) was the result particularly close. Even if some of the falls in the shares of the other unionist parties was down to tactical voting, it wouldn’t have been decisive.

In addition, the Conservatives won five of the thirteen seats from third. That’s not wholly indicative of a lack of tactical voting – the previous result is only one factor in determining who is best-placed as a challenger – but it strongly hints in that direction.

So a straight-forward swing on both independence and economic-social axes? Not quite. If we compare 2017 against 2010 rather than 2015, a different picture emerges. That both the Lib Dems and Scottish Labour have suffered disastrously since 2010 is hardly news. All the same, it’s notable that in every single seat the Scottish Tories now hold, both Labour and the Lib Dems have gone backwards, generally by large amounts. Across the 13 seats, the Labour and Lib Dem shares have fallen by at least 5% in 22 of the 26 instances, by double-digits in 14 of them and by at least 20% in seven instances. Both SNP and Tories have gained, roughly equally.

These seats are not, of course, a cross-section of Scottish opinion and we should be extremely wary of drawing general conclusions. All the same, the Tory share in them is up by at least 9% in every seat gained and by much more in most. These gains have come almost exclusively from the Lib Dem and Labour voters of 2010. It might not have been tactical and it might have been a positive vote for the union and against a second independence referendum, but the decisions of these ex-progressive alliance supporters of Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg still resulted in Theresa May rather than Jeremy Corbyn forming a government.

David Herdson


The biggest loser. How Nicola Sturgeon did even worse than TMay

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Alastair Meeks who correctly predicted the SNP tsunami of 2015 and that the SNP would lose their majority at Holyrood in 2016 looks over last week’s Scottish general election results.

General elections are like forest fires for party leaders.  Within 24 hours of the 2015 election, Ed Mliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage had all resigned.  Paul Nuttall resigned as promptly after last week’s election, after the disappointing but expected loss of UKIP’s sole MP.  Tim Farron resigned before a week was out despite increasing the Lib Dems’ seat tally by a third.  Theresa May clings on by her fingernails, having lost 13 seats and the Conservatives’ majority.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon, the party leader who unambiguously did worst in the 2017 general election, remains in office, apparently untroubled.  Last Thursday the SNP lost 21 seats, just under 40% of their 2015 total.  In the last 50 years, only Nick Clegg for the Lib Dems in 2015, John Major for the Conservatives in 1997 and William Wolfe for the SNP in 1979 have seen worse declines for their parties.  All three lost their jobs in the aftermath, as you would expect – political parties should not reward failure.

Nor was this a narrow defeat.  In just two years, the SNP mislaid more than a third of their voters and a quarter of their vote share.  Angus Robertson, the leader of the party in Westminster, was among the casualties.  Alex Salmond, their reincarnation of Braveheart, was hewn down.  In Scotland at least, the Conservatives’ decapitation strategy worked.

There have been murmurings.  There have been calls for Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, to be stripped of his role as the party’s chief executive.  For now, however, the membership have been remarkably quiescent about a defeat that from the outside at least looks to be largely of Nicola Sturgeon’s making.

For now, the SNP still hold a majority of the seats in Scotland.  Beneath the surface the position looks considerably worse than that suggests.  22 of the SNP’s remaining 35 seats are held by a margin of 7% or lower.  In almost all of those seats, the SNP faces a clear unionist challenger.  The omens for the SNP in the next general election look grim.  Even if their vote share stays the same, they might lose a lot of seats simply from increased tactical voting by better informed electorates in each constituency.

The safest SNP seat in Scotland would fall to a swing of under 8%.  They suffered swings against them of more than twice that in some constituencies last week.  The volatility that worked so well for them in 2015 has left them looking potentially vulnerable everywhere.

All this leaves Westminster’s Nats in a vice.  They really cannot afford an early election: they need to wait for the polls to turn and that will take some time.  So they must manoeuvre to avoid the government falling.  Equally, they have sworn for decades never to do deals with the Conservatives, who on the current numbers in Parliament are the only party capable of forming a stable government.  If they break that vow, their supporters will turn on them with fury and Labour will receive an enduring polling boost.

So somehow they need to contrive to ensure that the Conservatives remain in power until their fortunes turn, but not to be seen doing so.  This is good news for the Conservatives, who can probably treat the SNP as reliable enemies in Westminster.  It is also good news for Labour, who should be able to contrive plenty of opportunities to show themselves to Scottish voters as more reliably anti-Tory than the SNP.

Unless the polls in Scotland move fairly quickly, this Parliament looks set to be harrowing for the SNP.  They could easily find themselves being pulled apart by Labour and the Conservatives.  They need to develop a new strategy fast.  They seem to think they can do so under a leader who has just taken them rapidly backwards.  You have to wonder why.

Alastair Meeks