I’m currently playing a little bit of catch-up on Ballot Box Scotland, having had a few days on holiday in Northern Ireland. This poll, from YouGov (link to tables) was commissioned by Sky News (link to original writeup) and published just ahead of the SNP Leadership debate they held on Monday night. At the time this published, I was literally sitting waiting for my bus (or Glider, which is sort of a bus dressed like a tram) back from the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, so wasn’t able to do much more than retweet someone else’s reporting of the figures at the time!
The previous YouGov covered the 17th – 20th of February 2023. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).
There’s a little bit more movement in this poll than seemed to be the case in Survation, though none of it too dramatic. The SNP’s 35% is static versus the last poll, and is at the top end of their recent spread. With Labour down a couple of points, that allows the SNP to barely scrape a double-digit lead on this ballot for the first time since Sturgeon announced her resignation.
The Conservatives are likewise down 2%, whilst the Greens swing in the opposite direction to bring them back into double-digits. Relative to other recent polls, that’s on the weak end for the Conservatives and stronger for Greens. Rounding things out, both the Lib Dems and Reform UK tick up a point, leaving Alba as the only party regularly tracked to fail to hit the arbitrary 3% threshold that my alternative models use.
There’s not a huge amount of difference in terms of swings over on the constituency ballot, though the SNP gain a point here to help put them further ahead of Labour. A sharper dip for the Conservatives is their worst figure so far this year, the Lib Dems remain static on the last poll, and the Greens are on their best constituency figure this year – though with the usual caveats Green constituency figures are always difficult to get right.
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
Weaker constituency shares for Labour and the Conservatives tip a few seats back the SNP’s way in this projection, which gives them an improved position versus the last poll, only one seat down from 2021, and indeed their best projection of the year so far. That means the current SNP-Green government would easily have the numbers to continue – though whether it would have the political will to continue may not be clear until the SNP’s contest concludes!
For the UK Parliament, there’s only a 1% gain for the SNP in terms of changes versus the last poll, giving them a 10% lead over Labour. If you’re an avid reader of these analysis pieces you’ll be familiar with my talking about the SNP’s “danger zone”, which I reckon starts at roughly this 10% point. As with the Holyrood constituency vote, it’s the Conservatives who are worst off here, losing three points since the last poll, which basically brings them to roughly pre-revival levels of support.
What really stands out from this poll though is the 6% figure for the Greens, which ties them with the Lib Dems. That’s certainly the highest they’ve polled for Westminster since I set up BBS, and it seems to a be joint record with two polls (October 2014 and Jan/Feb 2015) ahead of the 2015 General Election when Greens were generally polling quite well UK-wide.
I find this figure both believable and unlikely. Believable, in the sense that this would seem a “reasonable” level for Greens to achieve at Westminster if they had a full slate of candidates and they only suffered from a “normal” degree of tactical voting away from them. Unlikely, in the sense that the Greens have never yet run a full Westminster slate in Scotland, and they do tend to be most susceptible to their natural supporters voting tactically, as the only Holyrood party not to have any history of Westminster representation and no clear prospect of winning a seat.
(As ever, note that YouGov inexplicably retain Refused and Wouldn’t Vote figures in their tables, and thus the figures reported here may look slightly different to what you see reported initially, as they are after removing those non-voting options.)
Practically no change versus the last poll for the big constitutional question, with only one point shuffling from Yes to Don’t Know, which doesn’t affect the Excluding Don’t Knows figure. That again comes out at only marginally worse for No than in 2014, and still a clear lead. After a long period of “too close to call”, I’d rate where we are now as “clear but not comfortable”, in the sense that polling is generally showing a lead for the Union, but they’ve yet to surpass the level set in 2014, and so long as that remains the case I expect the constitution will be a stubbornly dominant part of our politics.
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.
As this is a stronger poll for the SNP and Greens than has been seen from other pollsters recently, this more proportional AMS model nonetheless still gives that pairing a majority, whereas the previous YouGov had a lead for the Pro-Union bloc.
Under a more fully proportional system however, the Pro-Union parties come out on top. Indeed, the combined total for the mainstream parties comes out at a bare majority of 65 seats versus 60 for the Pro-Independence parties, meaning the 4 that go to Reform UK wouldn’t be strictly necessary to govern.
Scandinavian Style Westminster
As is typically the case at the moment, a model that makes Westminster fair and proportional tackles the SNP’s tendency towards over-representation, giving Labour and especially the Conservatives a much more substantial and representative haul. Given that joint-record Green share, it also gives them as many seats as the Lib Dems, and for additional diversity, Reform UK get a couple of seats thanks to just scraping the 3% mark.
If you’re eagle-eyed and have quick mental arithmetic, you might notice the projected total sums up to 60 rather than 59 here. That’s because the 59th seat can’t decide between the Lib Dems and Greens as their polled share is tied, so I’ve just given them both a final seat rather than pretend one is higher than the other. In actual implementations of PR, it’s vanishingly unlikely two parties would end up with an exact tie, but in modelling it’s an issue that occasionally pops up. I sometimes break such ties by checking the tables for raw figures, but YouGov don’t give those, so not an option here!
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