We had a bit of a false-start to post-Supreme Court decision polling last week, as Redfield & Wilton got us all excited with polling numbers on Independence and Westminster. However, although they had trailed beforehand that they would, Holyrood figures never made an appearance. I only write up these full analysis pieces for polls that have Scottish Parliament data, so that was disappointing. Fortunately, Ipsos have come to the rescue with their latest (link to tables) entry in the Scottish Political Tracker with STV News (link to original writeup).
The previous Ipsos poll which ran from 23rd – 29th of May doesn’t seem to have had Holyrood figures in it – certainly, they weren’t published at the time, and neither myself nor What Scotland Thinks have found any since. The last Holyrood-inclusive poll was thus the 22nd – 29th of November 2021. Changes are shown as (relevant poll / vs last election), with Holyrood comparing to the November poll, whilst Westminster and Independence compare to May.
We start with strong figures for both government parties, with the SNP on a joint-best figure for this vote of the term so far, whilst the Greens are only a point short of their joint best. Keep in mind though that the last time the SNP did this well was in the previous Ipsos poll, and they do tend towards the favourable end for these parties. Also remember though that differences between pollsters don’t necessarily mean “wrong”, or at least, there’s no easy way to gauge that in the absence of an election. Turning to the last Pro-Independence party, Alba are clearly just waiting to lose their MPs before they die entirely.
Crossing the constitutional aisle, this is another poll that’ll have Conservative MSPs squirming uncomfortably in their seats, as they’ve plummeted to just a point ahead of the Greens. That’s in line with other recent polling, emphasising how difficult the past few months have been for them. Labour therefore comfortably place second, though not quite as strongly as in other polls. Again, that’s a bit of an Ipsos house-effect, so in relative terms this is a solid figure for them. Meanwhile the Lib Dems have to settle for very slight improvement on their 2021 result.
As you’d expect, it’s much the same dynamic on the other vote – a big SNP lead, with Labour miles ahead of the Conservatives for second place. Relative to the last Ipsos poll, the Lib Dems have actually gained two points, but that just levels them out with where they were at the election. Greens are unmoved versus the last poll, though their share on this vote is never anything to write home about – as an aside, experience at last year’s election where they stood also tells us this is probably an underestimate for a “national” figure, but it’s thus far proved hard for pollsters to capture that!
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
That gives the SNP a clear majority meaning they wouldn’t even need the Green benches, nearly doubled in size, to make up the difference. Whether this situation would lead to a single party government or a New Zealand style “keep the Greens in despite a majority, because they know they’ll need them later” no one can say, but nonetheless both parties would be chuffed with these results.
Labour’s seat tally would also increase quite significantly, with all of these gains coming at the expense of the Conservatives, who are estimated to lose half of their seats and tie with the Greens for third place. In fact, although it’s not quite their best polled vote share, other parties are spread just the right way for this to be the most seats the Greens have been projected to win so far this term.
Complete Conservative collapse continues on the UK Parliament portion, coming in at about half of what they achieved in 2019. The Lib Dems similarly lose a huge chunk of their vote, though that’s likely to have a lesser impact in terms of seats, given their strategy of piling them high in core strongholds. The SNP and Labour both have stonking big positive swings since the poll earlier this year as a result, but that still has the SNP on twice as many votes as their closest competitors – and, perhaps crucially, with an overall majority of the vote. Although not in the running for any seats due to the voting system, the Greens also have a few percent to pad out the pro-Independence vote.
Although I didn’t do a full writeup due to absence of Holyrood figures, it’s worth comparing this with the Redfield & Wilton poll, which found the SNP going backwards rather than forwards relative to 2019, and thus no vote majority, plus a much stronger Labour share. We’d need a lot more than just two polls to make any determination of overall direction, but it’s always worth being aware when we’ve got two similarly timed polls with dramatically different findings.
Naturally, a lot of people are currently parsing Westminster polling in Scotland through the lens of the “de facto referendum”, with the SNP (and Greens) aiming for a (combined) vote share majority, in an attempt to force the hand of the UK Government on Independence. Remember, that had happened in 2015, when the SNP were fractionally shy of 50% and the Greens won 1.3%. Interestingly, Ipsos explicitly asked about that in addition to the standard Westminster question:
This gives a very slight net increase of 1% to the pro-Independence parties versus the plain question, but in all honesty the differences are so minor as to be nothing more than a little bit of statistical noise. Either way, if we take this poll at face value, it suggests the “de facto referendum” approach isn’t putting anyone off voting for the SNP, and indeed could be a gamble that pays off, at least in terms of them achieving their stated goal of a voting majority.
After months of me writing analysis pieces that boiled down to “meh, the constitutional question is so boring”, that’s clearly the most dramatic component of this poll. Independence has such a strong lead that there’s even a majority for Yes when including Don’t Knows – a group that has been pared back to a tiny portion of voters. This would more than reverse the margin of victory for the Union in 2014, and it’s the strongest poll for Independence in this parliamentary term so far.
Ipsos do typically have higher Independence shares than other pollsters though – I believe I’ve previously pointed out that they are the only pollster to survey by phone, which is perhaps why their results differ a bit from the largely panel-based competitors. For comparison though, the Redfield & Wilton poll also had an Independence advantage, albeit significantly weaker. Whilst we’ll need a few more polls on this question yet, we might be seeing another spike in Independence support taking shape. Whether it does, and whether it proves lasting, time will tell.
Timing of a Referendum
On the question of referendum timing, there isn’t a huge degree of change versus the last poll. The most significant shift is the decrease in people saying “Never” to another referendum. When combined with the fact support for a ballot next year is both up and the most popular individual choice, voters as a whole are possibly being pushed slightly towards a position of “bugger it, we need to have another one sooner rather than later”.
Whilst the lack of majority for a vote next year may sound a note of caution for the pro-Independence camp, there’s a (slender) majority for one this parliament(ish). It’s therefore probably foolish for the Pro-Union side to think they can kick this can down the road forever with procedural wrangling that doesn’t, and cannot, convince people who support Independence to change their minds.
Even if not via a referendum, we clearly do have to have a substantive debate on the issues if people are to be won over and the question is to be definitively settled. Shouting “but we had a vote in 2014 and you lost!” might go down a treat with fellow travellers on Twitter, but it does hee-haw to convince an ordinary voter. Labour at least do seem to have grasped this, having finally published Gordon Brown’s long-awaited constitutional review. Whether those proposals will be enough is another question, but they’ve now set out some form of stall that isn’t, well… stalling, and on territory they are clearly more comfortable.
As ever, the last little bit of analysis concerns those hypothetical and more proportional voting systems that I have a bee in my bonnet about here at BBS. The fact Westminster uses pure FPTP is an affront to democracy, and though Holyrood fares far better, AMS is still deeply imperfect. The examples here simply transpose the poll findings onto more proportional voting systems – the reality is that different systems would of course result in different voter behaviour.
For the moment, although the maps are useful for illustrative purposes, I’m opting just to show these hypotheticals as charts. It’s very time consuming making maps, and for these pure hypotheticals, it’s possibly a bit overkill.
If we take a bit of the FPTP-edge off AMS, the SNP would come up short of a majority by themselves – though they’d still be able to very comfortably continue the co-operative government with the Greens with an 86 to 59 lead. With a slightly more proportional voting system, the Conservatives would at least be spared (what they’d see as) the indignity of a tie with the Greens too.
If we go fully proportional but stick just to the current number of seats at Holyrood, it’s actually a broadly similar story to the RAMS version – no SNP majority, but continued Pro-Independence government at 74 to 55.
Scandinavian Style Westminster
As ever, the key thing with bringing PR to Westminster in Scotland is that’d it take a hatchet to the SNP’s representation. Rather than almost certainly winning almost every seat on these figures under FPTP, a properly proportional system would give them just over half. That’s still a majority of seats overall mind, and the Pro-Independence side overall ends up with a 32:27 advantage over the Pro-Union parties given the Greens would have a duo of MPs in this scenario too.
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