Poll Analysis: Norstat 30th of April – 3rd of May 2024

It’s all go in Scottish politics right now as John Swinney begins his unexpected term as First Minister, and there’s a General Election looming albeit on an as-yet-unspecified date – but don’t ask the Prime Minister about that or he’ll get very cross you might think people deserve to know that in a democracy. Despite this, it doesn’t appear that many folk are interested in either commissioning or just opting to run their own polls about Scotland, as this effort from Norstat (link to tables) for the Sunday Times (link to original writeup) slots into what has become an alternating pattern with YouGov.

Have the Scotsman given up their regular partnership with Savanta? Has no one bothered to ask Survation? Ipsos did some useful issue polling but don’t STV want to find out what it means for vote shares? If nothing else, given my General Election poll tracker works on the basis of only including one poll per firm (the general average allows multiples just because of these few-and-far-between moments), it needs some fresh juice! Regardless, this is the first full poll since Humza Yousaf announced his resignation, so will at least capture some of the political mood at that time.

The previous Norstat covered the 9th -12th of April 2024. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).

Regional Vote

In contrast to the recent YouGov, there are some more significant swings here, and I actually have a fair bit more to say about these numbers than I have other recent polls. Firstly, a statistically significant swing in Labour’s favour almost reverses their surprisingly sharp drop in the previous poll and takes them just past the SNP, who are down by a margin of error single point. That makes this just the fourth poll in the BBS standard series tracker with Labour ahead. This would be the lowest “winning” vote share for any party if it materialised on the day, but a lead is a lead, and Labour are only just beginning to get used to those again. The Conservatives meanwhile are down a couple of points, from what had been a higher than average share in the last poll.

For the Greens, no change, though Panelbase have historically been their worst pollster so though holding a smidge above 2021 may not be exciting for them, it may be reassuring. This, combined with the YouGov, combined with the past year, combined with literally all the other data from a bunch of other elections, really should be the final proof if any doubters needed it that there is a Green voter base out there that aligns primarily with the party. If the myth of Green votes all coming from SNP supporters voting tactically was true, those voters would have flooded back over the past year. They have not. Whilst the Greens have fluctuated over the term, and are now at their worst polling average since 2021, they haven’t collapsed.

I get it, it’s satisfying on a partisan basis for the party’s opponents to believe that myth as it paints the Greens in a bad light! But the thing with believing myths about your political opponents is you then fail to understand how to actually properly respond to and counter them. If nothing else, perhaps we all need to learn from folk including a Labour now-MSP who assumed when Alba launched that was the end of the Greens, as they’d accepted a false narrative at face value? None of that is to say the Greens won’t lose (or, indeed, gain) support in coming months, simply that if they do so it’ll be shrinking (or expanding) their own genuine support base, not a loaned one.

The Lib Dems have taken a knock since the last poll but rather than representing any genuine swing, I think it’s just normality reasserting itself. I’d said at the time 10% seemed a bit of a stretch for them, so this feels like a margin of error that had previously been at its limit coming back towards the mean. It’s still a consistent story of the party growing compared to the last election, and therefore in line to regain full privileges at Holyrood.

Reform UK are also up a couple of points, which gives them their best polled vote share this term. To be absolutely clear, as far as I’m concerned this is mere noise arising from their UK-level polling at the moment. This is the third Scottish Parliament term in a row where the party or its predecessors have had a mid-term surge due to, fundamentally, a surge of support in England. In both prior cases, there were a string of polls with vote shares that’d easily lead to multiple seats. In 2016 that led to 2% of the vote and David Coburn fleeing the Highlands and Islands count with his tail between his legs, and in 2021 it thoroughly embarrassed sitting MSP Michelle Ballantyne when they scraped 0.2%. In short, I’ll believe these kind of figures when they actually happen on an election day, and not before.

Last but not least, Alba also have a single point uptick. I know the party and its supporters can get very cross with BBS when I’m anything less than glowing about them, but a reminder: Panelbase, as Norstat were previously, was the party’s most favourable pollster pre-2021 and massively overestimated them. That has continued this term, with the firm the only one in the BBS tracker to have found them above 3%. Sustained growth and benefit from the SNP’s collapse continues to elude the party.

As one final note on this section one thing I’m a bit dubious about, and hadn’t picked up last poll, is the fact the combined Conservative + Reform UK share at 23% is pretty much the same as it was in 2021 (23.7%). I find that rather difficult to believe in the current circumstances, where UK-wide polling for the two parties is (per the BBC’s tracker) down about 12% versus the result of the 2019 UK election. Given Scotland has historically been less keen on both the Conservatives and options to their right than elsewhere, and given you’d expect Labour to be eating into the Conservative vote as part of their recovery, this feels slightly suspect.

Constituency Vote

Although the SNP maintain an absolute bare-minimum lead over Labour, who have a significant gain versus the last poll, this is the joint-lowest share they’ve had for this vote in any BBS standard series poll thus far, driving home the difficult circumstances facing the new First Minister. The Conservatives meanwhile are down three points, and I have to say that feeds into my sense the figures in the list side of things for the parties of the right are a bit odd. I can’t see how – allowing for RUK being in Others here – a maximum of 19% for those parties here becomes 23% on the list side of things. Certainly, Labour may benefit from some tactical constituency voting, but I’m really not sure it’d show this strongly or quickly in a poll.

Seat Projection

Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:

Please see this page for how projections work and important caveats.

Labour squeaking ahead on the list vote and managing to run a near tie on the constituency side of things ensures that this becomes only the second time I’ve projected them to have a lead over the SNP in seats, albeit only by one, and with what would be the weakest winning tally for any party in Holyrood history to date. They make so much constituency progress here the model actually gives them the narrowest of wins in Aberdeen Central, the first time my model has given them a constituency in the North East. Reform UK also end up with a seat in every region bar Lothian, though again, this is almost certainly just noise and I doubt we’ll see it in two year’s time, not least because Reform UK have an incredibly anaemic party operation here.

The total here leaves Labour reliant on both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, or the Conservatives and Reform UK, or the incredibly cursed and highly unlikely arrangement of Greens, Lib Dems and Reform UK, in order to govern. That’s working, of course, on the assumption a freshly-defeated SNP are hardly going to be keen to back a Labour government, any more than they made life easy for the SNP in 2007. The theme of polling at the moment is a rather messy parliament.

It’s even worse news for the SNP here, given this is the election that is looming, with Labour opening up the biggest lead they’ve had on this vote for any of the BBS tracked polls thus far. That’s in part because this is the worst share of any of those for the SNP, taking them below 30% for the first time. I keep talking about how even a Labour party a bit behind the SNP likely wins more seats due to their vote being highly concentrated in the Central Belt. With a 5% lead, they could even actually eject the SNP from the Central Belt entirely.

Everything else here is pretty unexciting, though again the note that this boost for Reform UK is entirely down to current circumstances and I’d be surprised if it held, and likewise the Alba figure feels like an especially Nortstat artefact.

As is consistently the case at the moment, despite grim figures all round for the SNP and a much reduced level of support for Pro-Independence parties, the actual concept of Independence remains almost as popular as the Union. The gap between the two has narrowed here in a statistically insignificant way, with the Union in the lead, but as I’m saying every other piece and regular readers will be bored of, this leaves no room for complacency for either camp.


As ever, the last little bit of analysis concerns those hypothetical and more proportional voting systems that BBS likes to play about with. The use of pure FPTP at Westminster 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.

RAMS patter.

Scandi patter.

Scandinavian Style Westminster

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