New Holyrood poll is bad news for the SNP and Scottish independence

A new Survation poll suggests that the pro-Scottish independence movement could lose its majority in Edinburgh.

The Survation poll, conducted for the Daily Mail between 9th and 12th September, indicates that Scotland's unionist parties would gain ground if a new Scottish parliamentary election were held today.


The poll found that just 42% of Scots would back the SNP in the constituency vote, down by five percentage points from the 2016 election. It also found that 26% would back Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives (up four percentage points) and that 25% would back Scottish Labour (up two percentage points). The poll also put Willie Rennie’s Scottish Liberal Democrats on 7% (down one percentage point).

As well as voting in constituencies, Scottish voters also vote in regional top-up lists to address the issue of disproportionality that arises from first-past-the-post.

In a stunning blow to the SNP, the poll found that just 31% of Scottish voters would back Nicola Sturgeon’s party, down 11 percentage points from the 2016 election. 25% said they would back Labour (up six points) and 21% said the Conservatives (down two points).

In brilliant news for Rennie’s party, one in ten poll respondents said they would back the Liberal Democrats (up five points from 2016) while 9% said they would back the pro-independence Scottish Green party.

A further 3% said they would support UKIP.


When the poll’s figures (to one decimal place) are plugged into Weber Shandwick’s Scotland votes seat calculator, an interesting parliament emerges:

  • · SNP – 54 seats (-9)
  • · Labour – 30 seats (+6)
  • · Conservatives – 24 seats (-6)
  • · Liberal Democrats – 13 seats (+8)
  • · Scottish Greens – 8 seats (+2)

If a new election brought about such a parliament, the SNP would lose seats while their closest allies, the Greens, would make a couple of gains. Most interestingly perhaps, is the fact that Scottish Labour would replace the Tories as the country’s main opposition party. On top of this, such an election would be a great night for the Liberal Democrats who only won five seats in 2016 and in 2011.

According to the Evening Express, the SNP’s finance secretary said:

“This poll shows that the Tory bubble has burst, with the party falling into third place as their handling of Brexit goes from bad to worse."

Possible coalitions

If Scottish voters voted like respondents in this poll, and the country’s voting system translated votes into seats like in the Scotland Votes calculator, then some interesting governing possibilities could emerge:

  • The SNP could lead another minority government. They ran the country with less than 50 seats between 2011 and 2016.
  • The SNP and Labour could form a progressive grand coalition. The Telegraph has even reported that David Martin, a Scottish Labour MEP, has called for such an outcome after the next Holyrood election.
  • The SNP could form a coalition with the newly strengthened Liberal Democrats, however, Rennie’s party would no doubt have some big demands so as not to suffer electorally from a new coalition.
  • The unionist parties could join forces and appoint a unity first minister figure.

The possibilities are endless, but one thing is for sure: there would be no #indyref2 following such an election.


Of course, there are a few limitations to this analysis. The next election is still over three years away so the numbers will undoubtedly change over time. Scottish Labour is currently without a leader, meaning Kezia Dugdale’s replacement could be a make or break leader for the party. Furthermore, in terms of translating this poll into seats, the constituency measure uses uniform swing which is less accurate in the age of multi-party politics. On top of this, Scotland’s top-up list is divided into eight regions, meaning that regional differences will be considered. For example, the Liberal Democrats could receive a boost like in this poll, but it could vary across the country.

Nonetheless, the poll points to two clear things: the SNP are losing progress, and Jeremy Corbyn has re-engerised the party north of the border. If these trends continue, 2021 could end up being a three-way race.

Scottish independence

In another blow to the independence movement, the poll found that 49% of Scots would back a vote to remain in the union while just 42% would support a Scexit.

However, the gap has narrowed since the last time Survation asked this question.

The full results of the Survation poll for the Daily Mail can be accessed here.