More signs that Labour are losing the battle in Scotland

Jim Murphy, Billy McNeill and Walter Smith

Since the referendum the SNP have surged, whilst Labour have plummeted, and this will not stop soon.

For so long Scotland was a Labour stronghold. In 2010, Gordon Brown’s Labour, whilst unpopular in England, got 41/59 available seats in Scotland, whilst the Tories only won just one MP. In 1997, there were no Conservative MPs and Labour dominated north of the border, but Labour’s time as the dominant political force in Scotland could soon be over.

Opinion poll after opinion poll has indicated that in May Labour will lose a significant number of seats and the SNP will become Scotland’s largest party at Westminster. With four weeks to go the best Jim Murphy’s Scottish Labour can do is hope that they can narrow the gap, but the polls suggest that Labour are losing the battle.

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A recent YouGov poll for the Times further indicates that Labour’s chances for success are shrinking.

One question asked to respondents was:

“Thinking about the MPs elected from Scotland at the next general election, which political party in Scotland do you think would be most effective at... Preventing another Conservative government?”

Labour have been making the case that a vote for them will keep out Cameron and that a vote for the SNP will make a Conservative government more likely, whilst the SNP have argued that this is not the case and SNP MPs will oppose a Cameron-led government and help Ed Miliband into Downing Street. Nicola Sturgeon reiterated this in the Scottish leaders TV debate.

To the question of preventing a Conservative government, in March 36% of respondents said voting SNP would be most effective in stopping another Conservative government whilst 37% said Labour, suggesting that the latter was winning this battle.

However, one month later the numbers have changed. 38% said Labour (actually higher than in March), but an impressive 45% said the SNP.

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This argument between Labour and the SNP has been a political issue for a while now, but this poll suggests that the SNP now have the upper hand and that Labour’s message is failing to get through.

The poll also put the SNP ahead in numerous other questions. When asked about who would be most effective in getting more powers for Holyrood 69% said the SNP compared to Labour’s 14%. Furthermore, 65% said they thought the SNP would be most likely to give Scotland an influential voice in Westminster and 48% said they thought the SNP would be best at protecting the NHS (ahead of Labour on 23%).

Overall, Labour are struggling. This poll is another sign of that - particularly the sudden change in numbers over preventing a Conservative government. There is hope for the party - there are still just over three weeks until the election, three weeks in which if they play their cards right they can mitigate some of the damage. But it will be an uphill struggle.

See the full results of the poll here.


Referendum effect: turnout in Scotland likely to be higher than rest of the UK

Four weeks to go: election far too close to call

One month to go: general election predictions