Panelbase, 3rd – 5th of March 2021

Keep tabs on all the latest polling, articles and information ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election in the Ballot Box Scotland Holyrood Hub!

We’re already 8 polls deep into 2021, which is a lot by Scottish standards and a sign that the election is galloping towards us. This one was the second of the year from Panelbase.

It’s not my job here on Ballot Box Scotland to offer commentary on specific political events, but this is the first poll to follow the most explosive portions of the ongoing Salmond Inquiry at Holyrood. Vaccine rollout is going well across the whole UK too, and Scottish Labour have elected Anas Sarwar as their new leader. Whatever your own views, these are the kind of things that can have an impact on party support and therefore polling.

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Regional Vote

SNP ~ 42% (-4 / nc)
Conservative ~ 22% (+2 / -1)
Labour ~ 19% (+3 / nc)
Liberal Democrat ~ 7% (+1 / +2)
Green - 6% (-2 / -1)

This is a relatively bruising poll for both of the pro-Independence parties. The SNP are down by a pretty big 4% here, which may be especially concerning for them given that Panelbase tend to be on the upper end of the List polling spectrum for them. For the Greens Panelbase tend to be their least favourable pollster, which means dropping 2 points here takes them below their 2016 figure, and the lowest since a YouGov last August.

Though still trailing behind the SNP, that means this is a much rosier poll for the pro-Union parties, all of whom are up. Labour have the largest gains here, but remain in third behind the Conservatives, whereas the Lib Dems would leapfrog the Greens to reclaim fourth place.

Constituency Vote

SNP ~ 47% (-5 / nc)
Conservative ~ 23% (+3 / +1)
Labour ~ 20% (+3 / -3)
Liberal Democrat ~ 7% (+1 / -1)
Green - 2% (-1 / +1)

As you’d expect, the same general trends are at play for the constituency vote. Most notable here is that this is the first time since before the 2019 UK election that the SNP have polled below 50%. That means that on both votes in this poll they are basically static versus the 2016 election.

Seat Projection

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

SNP ~ 65 (-7 / +2)
Conservative ~ 30 (+6 / -1)
Labour ~ 25 (+6 / +1)
Liberal Democrat ~ 6 (+1 / +1)
Green ~ 3 (-6 / -3)

This poll is one of the closest to the 2016 results we’ve had in a while, so it’s no surprise it’s not a million miles from the status quo when when projected into seats. The SNP do come out with the barest majority here by flipping all of the Labour constituencies, including two in regions where that results in overhang.

Despite that this is the first projection since April 2019 to show Labour on more seats than they won last time. Hardest hit though are the Greens who’d lose half of their seats in this scenario, whilst the Conservatives would see one of theirs lost to the Lib Dems.

No Westminster VI in this one I’m afraid.

Standard Question

No ~ 47% (+3)
Yes ~ 46% (-3)
Don't Know ~ 7% (nc)

This is the second poll recently to show No back in the lead over Yes – and for there to be just a handful of responses in it, giving a 1% difference purely on rounding. Disappointing though this may be to those on the Independence side, supporters of the Union may want to hold off on celebrations for a little while yet!

Excluding Don't Knows

No ~ 50% (+2 / -5)
Yes ~ 50% (-2 / +5)

Barely a smidge between the two options in the tables mean it’s a score draw on the pure No-Yes figures. Basically, for the time being, we’re back in tossup territory, with everything floating around the margin of error. We’ll need a few more polls before we can say for sure where things are at.

Council Area Projection

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

On a simple Uniform Swing versus 2014, this might put a total of 17 Councils in the Yes column, down from 28 in 2014. Yes would be on 15, an increase from 4 at the referendum.


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.

Changes here are vs AMS / vs same projection for the last poll.

SNP ~ 56 (-9 / -5)
Conservative ~ 29 (-1 / +2)
Labour ~ 26 (+1 / +4)
Liberal Democrat ~ 10 (+4 / +2)
Green ~ 8 (+5 / -3)

Usually this one just shows a big decrease for the SNP and gains for everyone else, but rarely the Conservatives are very, very slightly above their fair share under AMS too! Still, the lion’s share of shifts here would at the SNP’s expense, with the Greens gaining substantially.

Note though a key shift – the constitutional balance here is the opposite to AMS, with the pro-Union parties on the bare 65-seat majority. Basically this poll has managed to find as many ways as possible to be on a knife-edge.

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