Poll Analysis: YouGov 26th – 29th of April 2024

What a couple of weeks Scottish politics has just had, eh? Climate targets being dropped became the Green membership demanding a vote on the Bute House Agreement, which became Humza Yousaf unilaterally sacking the Greens from government at short notice, which became the Greens withdrawing their confidence in him, which became his time as First Minister (functionally) ending at 8.1 Liz Trusses. We now move to the second SNP leadership election in as many years. Before we get into the detail of this poll by YouGov (link to tables), it’s worth some reflections on the situation.

I drafted a lengthy piece that I was going to publish on Sunday taking a look at the role that, beyond the policies and the personalities, our political culture has played in taking us to where we are now. Although it took me ages (it was a long read that was going to be about 25 minutes per the little display at the top of each piece), I decided against publication. It’s not that I don’t think it would have been a useful reflection, but instead that it might have been too far outside the usual BBS wheelhouse, especially with regards to getting into the nitty gritty of some of the oddities around attitudes towards the Greens.

What the piece was rooted in however is the simple fact that whilst the Scottish Parliament is institutionally set up for consensus, the UK Parliament is institutionally set up for conflict. Since the latter is the dominant force in setting our culture, it has deeply damaged the ability of many people in our politics (not just politicians, journalists and even voters too) to take sound decisions and even understand basic political realities. We keep trying to impose a majoritarian culture on a proportional parliament, and doing so is disastrous. The events of the past fortnight have shown that.

I absolutely agree with the assessment that Humza Yousaf effectively had no choice but to end the Bute House Agreement, as the SNP had enough crisis and instability without having to wait a month for the Greens’ membership to decide the fate of the government. But I also agree with the argument made by many that the manner of his ending it showed some of the worst political judgement in Scottish political history. The now-outgoing First Minister must accept ultimate responsibility, but let’s not forget he had advisors who clearly thought this was a great idea and have proven equally inept.

Sacking the Greens with no notice was meant to be a show of strength, and I have to admit I laughed uproariously at a Salmond-era Special Advisor getting a comment piece out in the Courier to that effect last Thursday, because the claim the decision had strengthened Yousaf was already unravelling. Instead, all it did was show how weak a party with no majority and now no allies is in our consensual parliament. Large numbers of people in Scottish politics simply still refuse to understand that the Greens are, in fact, their own party, with their own support, and their own objectives. They do not and cannot be expected to simply roll over and support the SNP on every issue, least of all after they were thrown out of government the way they were. Their credibility would have been shattered. In trying to look strong in the face of internal SNP critics, Yousaf forgot the Greens often need to look strong in the face of SNP pressure, and he lost the confidence of Parliament and ultimately his job.

We’ll never know what would have happened if he had taken another route, invited Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater in and explained he felt his situation was untenable. He could have argued that a move to minority with Green support would open a pressure relief valve just enough that some core Green priorities could still likely be passed in a way they wouldn’t if his own party jettisoned him as it may very well have done so. Arranged a joint press conference to end the government together, just as it had been formed jointly. Would that have been enough to save him? Who knows. All we can say with certainty is that the decision he did take, for a swift sharp sacking, was spectacularly misjudged and has ended his career.

Right! Reflections over, it’s poll time. Although this ran from the 26th to the 29th, all of the fieldwork is before Yousaf announced his resignation; in all such cases most of the data comes earlier in the period, with stragglers at the end. Let me warn you though: this is a comedically dull poll for the period it covers.

The previous YouGov covered the 25th of March – 2nd of April 2024. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).

Regional Vote

Prepare for the recurring theme of this poll, and something that’s objectively just very funny given the high drama we were all living through: absolutely every shift here is within margin of error. That means that there’s nothing statistically useful to take from the changes, to all intents and purposes this is a no change poll.

Amongst the little swings we have are a gain of two points for the SNP versus Labour dropping one. That opens a gap between them that didn’t exist in the previous poll, sure, but not a huge one. Similar single-point shifts apply to the Conservatives and Greens, though for the latter that is notably their worst figure with YouGov this term, after the firm spent a fair while as one of the more Green-favourable pollsters. It’s equal to their 2021 share however and leaves nobody happy, with those hoping the end of the BHA might cause an immediate surge or slump for the party seeing… nothing, yet.

The only figure strictly outside margin of error, which reduces the further away from 50% you get, is the Reform UK share. Still a comparatively high share for a party that got 0.2% in 2021, but it ties them with Alba in the “also-ran” category this time around.

Constituency Vote

Nothing very much different on the constituency vote: it’s all margin of error once again. The SNP up by the same amount as the list, but here Labour are static, which widens a gap that was there previously. The Conservatives are up a point, the Greens and Reform UK down one, but none of this means anything! Hopefully the next poll out is more exciting, come on, what’s the point of political chaos if it doesn’t have consequences for somebody, anybody?!

Seat Projection

Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:

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

Through this term up until this poll I’d have talked about whether the SNP-Green government had a majority or not, but no longer. It’s back to pure constitutional camp descriptions, and whilst the SNP’s marginal vote share improvement relative to the last poll boosts the overall tally, they still come up significantly short at 57 seats to the Pro-Union camp’s 72. The alternative traffic light arrangement of Labour, Lib Dem and Green likewise comes in at only 59 seats. As ever, I maintain that such a balance leads to a Labour First Minister by default, but one completely reliant on the Conservatives to govern. Also note that with Reform UK significantly down, the anomalous single seat they’d had projected in the previous poll also disappears.

Would you believe it, we’re still in Margin Of Errorburgh. Gains here for both Labour and the SNP keep the former a smidge ahead, the Lib Dems also make a single point advance since the last poll, whilst both Reform UK and the Greens echo their performance at Holyrood with slight downticks. Remember in these circumstances that Labour’s vote share is more tightly concentrated than the SNP’s, and would therefore in this scenario likely lead to significantly more MPs.

You guessed it, margin of error all the way down, baby! The tiny shift away from Yes here actually favours Don’t Know, but it’s enough that once you exclude those it’s another point each way to widen the gap between options. This question remains relatively close and should be a reminder to the Pro-Union camp to avoid complacency; the SNP’s decline has not yet meaningfully impacted support for Independence. And because I love a balance, let me advise the Pro-Independence camp to similarly not lull themselves into a false sense of security: just because it hasn’t impacted support for Independence yet, doesn’t mean it never will.

Attitudes to Ending the BHA and Yousaf Resigning

The poll also included plenty of questions on favourability of individual politicians, as well as on the ending of the Bute House Agreement and Humza Yousafs future. Whilst the former are interesting and I track some favourability rating series on their own page, they aren’t something I cover in ordinary analysis pieces as a matter of keeping things brief. It would however be massively remiss of me not to look at those juicy other questions.

Were the SNP right to end the BHA?

Actual question: “The SNP have ended their power-sharing coalition agreement with the Scottish Green Party in the Scottish Parliament. Do you think they were right or wrong to do so?”

On the whole, significantly more people felt the SNP were right to end the BHA than they were wrong to. Notably however, effectively as many people said they didn’t know as said it was right. The feeling it was the right thing to do is absolutely overwhelming amongst Conservative voters, whilst Labour and SNP voters are much more evenly split.

That’s absolutely to be expected, given the Conservatives are at the opposite end of the constitutional and left-right spectrum from the Greens, whereas it shows a more mixed picture amongst voters who would otherwise be a closer ideological match. The narrative of the Bute House Agreement had become that voters, en bloc, hated it, but the reality this poll suggests is that it wasn’t animating the same level of anger amongst voters as it has amongst politicians and the media.

If the SNP hadn't, should the Greens have ended the BHA?

Actual question: “Before the SNP ended the power-sharing coalition agreement, the Scottish Green Party were also considering ending it. If the SNP hadn’t done so first, do you think the Scottish Green Party should or should not have ended the coalition agreement?”

Interestingly enough, whilst as many voters overall say the Greens should have scrapped the agreement as the SNP were right to end it, significantly fewer think they shouldn’t have as said the SNP were wrong to. The difference between these figures may relate to the circumstances of their departure. Some of the people who weren’t sure either way if the deal should have been ended, are perhaps quite sure it shouldn’t have been ended the way it was.

Otherwise the patterns here are broadly comparable, with Conservatives most certain the Greens should have ended the BHA, Labour voters less emphatic, and SNP voters split but more saying the Greens should have stayed in or that they don’t know. Note though that here that the biggest group are people who weren’t sure either way, again emphasising my earlier point that the all-consuming debate around the agreement amongst political obsessives just was not cutting through to the general public.

Should Humza Yousaf remain as First Minister?

Actual question: “The Scottish Parliament is to vote on whether they have confidence in Humza Yousaf as First Minister. How would you prefer the Scottish Parliament to vote?”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a clear majority of voters felt that parliament should indeed vote no confidence in Humza Yousaf. Again this is driven largely by people already opposed to the SNP, with upwards of 80% of Conservative voters wanting him gone, and between two-thirds and a quarter of Labour voters saying so. A majority of SNP supporters wanted to keep him in place, but only just.

The pressure on Yousaf if he had limped on to the confidence vote would have been enormous, and the fact over a quarter of his own voters wanted him sacked wouldn’t have helped. Even if he had survived it on a 64-64 split with the Presiding Officer’s casting vote in his favour, he’d have had the confidence of a technicality, the confidence of Speaker Denison’s Rule, not the true confidence of the chamber. Awareness of that reality is likely what helped drive his decision to resign rather than face the indignity of actually losing the vote.


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.

Scandinavian Style Westminster

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