The Scottish National party is on course to double its vote in May’s general election despite its lead over Scottish Labour narrowing, the latest poll on Westminster voting intentions shows.
The TNS poll gives the SNP a 10-point lead over Scottish Labour among those certain to vote, at 41% against 31%, putting nearly half of the 41 Westminster seats won by Scottish Labour in 2010 at risk.
The SNP took less than 20% of the vote in 2010, when Labour was led by Gordon Brown.
TNS also found that a quarter of all voters were still undecided as to how they would vote on 7 May – including those who state they are certain to vote.
TNS, which is regarded as more cautious than other pollsters, said its findings suggested the gap between the SNP and Scottish Labour is much narrower than the 20-point lead given to the nationalists in a spate of other recent polls, but that it was still gloomy news for the Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy.
The poll, conducted using face-to-face interviews with 1,006 voters from mid-January to early February, found that Murphy’s arrival as leader had had no positive overall impact on Labour support.
Only 8% of voters, mostly older people, said Murphy’s appointment made them more likely to vote Labour, while 8% said it made it less likely. A large majority of voters said it made no difference – a finding seized on by Angus Robertson, the SNP’s election coordinator.
Robertson said Labour was suffering the consequences of its “toxic” alliance with the Tories during the referendum campaign. “It will come as a major blow to Jim Murphy and the Labour leadership in Scotland that since taking over as leader last year people are no more likely to vote for Labour than they were under [his predecessor] Johann Lamont,” he said.
Tom Costley, the head of TNS Scotland, said the polling also suggested the SNP were peeling off voters disaffected with the Liberal Democrats as well as former Labour voters most frequently identified as SNP converts after Nicola Sturgeon became party leader and first minister.
“The turnaround in the Scottish political scene which sees the SNP polling at this level has been widely attributed to traditional Labour voters who voted yes in the referendum deciding to stay with the SNP,” Costley said.
“But it is also worth noting that the SNP may well also have benefited from the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote – from 19% in the 2010 election to 4% in the latest poll.” If replicated in May, that suggests a swath of Lib Dem seats will be lost in Scotland.
TNS also found that only 64% of voters were certain to vote in May, in contrast with the 85% turnout in September’s independence referendum.
Scottish Labour conceded the polls showed it was lagging behind the SNP, but insisted that electing SNP MPs would only help the Tories by denying Labour a Westminster majority.
“In the end the only people who will benefit from these polls are David Cameron and the Tories,” a spokesman said. “It is a simple fact that the single biggest party gets to form the next government. The more seats the SNP get from Labour, the more likely it is the Tories will be the biggest party and David Cameron will get into government through the back door.”
Professor John Curtice, from Strathclyde University, said: ”A lead like this rather than the 20-point one in many other recent polls would enable Labour to hang on to half of its current seats. It reminds us of just how much difference a few points either way makes to Labour and SNP prospects. That said I am not sure Labour would be that happy losing half of its seats.”
This article was written by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th February 2015 05.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010