SNP lead in new Scottish poll, but unionists have majority

A new Scottish poll puts the SNP up two percentage points, but pro-union parties’ support remains high.

The latest Scotland only poll from Survation for the Daily Record, conducted 24th – 28th January, puts the Scottish National Party on 39% of the vote in Westminster voting intentions. This is up two points from the last poll, as well as up two from the 2017 general election.

The poll also puts Labour on 27% (-2%) and the Conservatives on 24% (no change). This is a turnaround from the 2017 election, in which the Conservatives pulled ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party north of the border.

The poll also puts the Liberal Democrats on 7% and others on 3%.

While the SNP evidently remain the largest party in Scotland, the pro-union parties are backed by a majority of voters although these results would likely translate into a majority of seats for the SNP due to the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system. In fact, according to Survation and the Electoral Calculus seat calculator, such a voting pattern could result in an additional nine seats for the SNP.

The poll also asked voters if Scotland should be an independent country. Like most polls in recent years, Survation’s points to a pro-union majority, with just 46% saying they would like to see an independent Scotland compared to 54% with the opposite view.

For Holyrood constituency voting intentions, the SNP remain in the lead on 42%, significantly ahead of Labour’s 25%, the Conservatives’ 25% and the Liberal Democrats' 6%. As for list voting, 33% picked the SNP, 23% the Conservatives, 9% the Greens, 8% Liberal Democrats and 3% UKIP.

The poll also found continued support for remaining in the European Union, with 66% saying they backed that option. However, this has not translated itself into support for independence, which was once the hope of SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

On top of that, a number of modern elections have resulted in the party with the most votes coming in second in the final seat count, such as in 1951 and in February 1974.

First-past-the-post is outdated and does not even meet the goals it sets itself. A switch to a proportional voting system would lead to results that truly reflect what people vote for, and would not lead to “wrong winner” elections.

4. An end to coalitions of convenience

One of the reasons the Labour and Conservative parties are so dominant and united (not with each other, but in terms of the fact they remain distinct parties) in British politics is that the voting system forces a two-party system and keeps them glued together. Under a fair voting system, the parties would likely split and be more honest about who they are. Clearly, there is a large segment of Labour voters that would like to see an end to Corbyn and a large chunk on the left of the party who kept their heads down in the Blair years.

A fair voting system would allow for the big parties to split and be honest with themselves and public about their internal divisions. Different factions could put forward competing manifestos and unite after the election to form coalitions of compromise. The plurality of political opinion in this country is far too big to be caged by a two-party system.

5. A strengthened constituency link

Another supposed merit of FPTP is that the constituency link it creates is a crucial component of British democracy and should not be tampered with. The idea of an MP being a local champion is an important one, but there does not need to be a direct trade-off between fair representation and the constituency link.

A switch to the Single Transferable Vote would create slightly larger constituencies, but would result in a diverse mix of representation. Currently, there is just representative that voters can go to with issues on the Westminster level, something which can be off-putting if said MP comes from a greatly different viewpoint on key issues from the constituent. STV, used in Ireland, Northern Ireland and in Scottish Local Elections, gives voters choice at the ballot box and choice during the parliamentary term and therefore strengthens and diversifies the constituency link. Surely a healthy democracy should result in effective communication between voters and representatives?

6. Higher turnout and political engagement