Hot on the heels of yet another major bit of Scottish politics drama, as former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested then released without charge as part of the ongoing investigation into the SNP’s finances, the Scotsman (link to original writeup) and Savanta (link to tables) partnership is back again with another poll. Although some of this did take place following Sturgeon’s arrest, note that it started on the Friday, so much if not most of the fieldwork will have been completed before then.
The previous Savanta covered the 28th – 31st of March 2023. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).
Another remarkable list vote poll here, with the SNP and Labour tied. That’s the second tie we’ve seen between these two parties recently, but only the third time since the Independence referendum where the SNP haven’t been in the lead in voting intention. The SNP have a particularly sharp fall here, taking them into the 20’s, but note that Labour drop back a bit too, whilst the Conservatives are static. So where have those votes gone? Apparently, to the Greens and Lib Dems.
I’d wondered after the last Savanta whether the two smaller parties were being lost in the period of upheaval. That has since appeared not to be the case, and in this case Savanta have bounced back to their historic position of a highly favourable pollster for both the Greens and Lib Dems. Whilst both shares are a little shy of record shares, it is the first time anyone except Redfield & Wilton have found the Lib Dems above 10%, and it means that in Holyrood terms they are the only parties coming out of this poll with a clearly positive story.
It’s a rather different story over on the constituency ballot, where the SNP retain a relatively wide lead over Labour, relative to some other polls lately. Here it’s the Conservatives that are down a few points, leading to single-digit and therefore very margin of error gains for all of the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems.
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
Compared to the last poll, the triple whammy of Conservatives sliding in the constituency vote, Labour dipping on the list, and big gains for the Greens and Lib Dems makes this a much less favourable outcome for Labour. The seat gap widens to double-digits again, having only been a handful in the last poll, whilst the SNP manage to remain static and clearly ahead despite the list vote tie due to projected constituency dominance, particularly in the North East. In common with most polling at the moment, this would see the SNP-Green government lose their majority.
As I so often point out, whilst this is a very good poll for the Lib Dems, I will admit to being highly dubious about any suggestion they’ll win MSPs in Glasgow and Central. Those two regions are clearly their worst, and certainly in Glasgow the party has basically no campaigning infrastructure. That is however my only quibble for that party, as if they were to poll approaching this well, gains in the North East, South and West, plus additional seats in Lothian and Mid Scotland and Fife are eminently reasonable expectations.
Down at the UK Parliament, the SNP’s lead over Labour continues to erode, hitting a point at which it begins to be conceivable that Labour could squeak a lead in seats even though they’d lack one in votes on these figures. It’s all margin of error for all parties here anyway, but note another Conservative downtick plus a little Lib Dem bump.
The constitutional question is on a knife-edge in this poll, with the Union only a point ahead on the headline figures, though it’s a two point gap after excluding don’t knows. Not only are swings here within margin of error, so too are the results, making this a statistical dead heat. That’s a significant difference to Holyrood, where the Pro-Union parties have a clear lead, and is further evidence that the SNP’s woes are not thus far impacting overly on support for Independence.
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.
Not only does a more proportional form of AMS help to further bolster the Pro-Union camp, it also broadens Labour’s governing possibilities. Although a formal coalition would be unlikely, a Labour-Lib Dem-Green traffic light arrangement on shared issues would be possible, with 73 votes to the 72 for the SNP and Conservatives (remember, this model has 16 extra seats).
An even more proportional system erases the SNP’s constituency advantage and equalises their haul of seats with Labour. That traffic light arrangement is more comfortable as a result, at 68 to 61.
Scandinavian Style Westminster
Even if First Past the Post were to allow Labour to squeak ahead, a fully proportional approach to Westminster would keep the SNP narrowly ahead. As ever, it would also more fairly represent Conservative voters, who’d be lucky to get half this number of seats under FPTP.
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