The recently elected leader of Scottish Labour, Jim Murphy, faces a daunting challenge to lift his party’s fortunes before next May’s general election as a poll shows support for Labour in Scotland is now half of that for the Scottish National party.
A Survation poll for Monday’s Daily Record, the first to be released since Murphy’s election on 13 December, found 48% of Scottish voters planning to support the SNP in May, and 24% Labour.
Support for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats fell by one point each, to 16% and 5% respectively, while Ukip polled 4% and the Greens 1%.
Reflecting the transformation of the political landscape in Scotland since the referendum, voting intentions for Westminster are now almost exactly aligned with those for Holyrood, where Labour polled 25% compared with the SNP’s 51%.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said on his What Scotland Thinks blog that the poll had dispelled any hopes that Murphy’s election would prove to be a magic bullet for Scottish Labour.
Among those currently supporting Labour, only 29% said Murphy’s election had made it more likely they would vote for the party in May. The poll also reflected a significant split along constitutional lines in people’s reasons for supporting different parties in the general election. Seventy-five per cent of SNP supporters said that they would vote for the party with the best Scotland-wide policies or leader for Scotland, or for the party with the best approach to devolution and independence. But, while 68% of Labour supporters, in addition to 84% of Conservative and 73% of Liberal Democrat voters, said they would be voting e for the party with the best UK-wide policies or leader.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said the SNP was taking nothing for granted but added: “This is a great early Christmas present for the SNP – our best ever Survation poll rating for a UK general election, as well as being over 50% for the Scottish parliament constituency vote for the first time.”
Last week Murphy told the Guardian he faced a vast challenge but believed Labour could hold all its Westminster seats and win in Holyrood in 2016.
“[The SNP] have got to work out how they deal with the argument we’re going to make, which is you can protest against Cameron by voting for the Greens or the Nats, but you can only replace him with one party,” he said.
“Come the UK election, more and more people will be thinking less about the choice they have made and more about the choice they’re going to make. The referendum will always be important but it won’t be the single biggest thing on people’s minds come the general election.”
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