One in seven to vote tactically to stop SNP

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
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FLOUNDERING Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates in Scotland could escape defeat in next week’s election as people vote tactically to keep out the SNP, new research has found.

One in seven Scots will vote tactically in the election, according to a YouGov survey.

People are realising that without tactical voting, they could accidentally hand victory to divisive candidates who won’t work positively for Scotland and the UK

Alastair Cameron

But a separate poll yesterday suggested well over half of Scots (54 per cent) are poised to vote for the SNP. The news comes as Nicola Sturgeon last night urged Ed Miliband to “toughen up and not be kicked about” by political opponents over the prospect of dealing with the SNP if there is a hung parliament.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, which is Labour’s biggest donor, has also suggested Mr Miliband could work with the SNP if he became prime minister.

The tactical voting survey was carried out for the Scotland in the Union organisation and is the latest in a series conducted by YouGov which finds voters would switch to opponents of the SNP in greater numbers than to the Nationalists.

This could result in about 16,000 extra votes being secured for selected candidates, according to the pro-Union body which commissioned the work – saving many Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative seats.

Struggling candidates such as Labour leader Jim Murphy and Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson may be able to withstand the SNP surge in such a scenario and hold on to their seats.

Alastair Cameron, from Scotland in Union, said: “These figures are from across Scotland, so the proportion could be significantly higher in key constituencies. We’re hearing examples of intended tactical voting in many constituencies, as people look closely at the realistic options available to them. People are realising that without tactical voting, they could accidentally hand victory to divisive candidates who won’t work positively for Scotland and the UK.”

Senior Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind is among the senior figures who has backed tactical voting, suggesting that Tory voters in areas where the party has no hope of winning could switch to Labour or the Lib Dems in order to keep the SNP out.

But SNP campaign chief Angus Robertson said: “The reality is that tactical voting campaigners are trying to get more Tory MPs elected in Scotland, which would make David Cameron’s re-election more likely – underlining the importance of electing a team of SNP MPs to make Scotland stronger at Westminster.” The Scotland in the Union work is based on an estimated 75 per cent turnout, which is higher than the 2010 General Election, but lower than last year’s referendum.

Only 76 per cent of those polled said that the party they intend to vote for is their first choice. The results of the poll show that 14 per cent intend to vote for a party that is not their first choice, but which stands a better chance of beating a party they like even less. The remaining 10 per cent said they could also be considered potential tactical voters.

Lib Dem deputy leader Sir Malcolm Bruce said: “People who have voted for other parties in the past are backing the Liberal Democrats this time round.

“We have an excellent team of hardworking candidates and in each of our 11 seats voters have a straight choice between the Liberal Democrats, who will grow the economy and invest in the NHS, or the SNP who want a second referendum and would ramp up our debt.”

Meanwhile, separate polling shows that the gap between the SNP and Labour shows no sign of narrowing. A new TNS poll puts support for the Nationalists at 54 per cent, up two percentage points from the previous poll, compared with 22 per cent for Labour, down two percentage points.

Support for the Conservatives remains unchanged at 13 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats hold at 6 per cent, the Greens are down one percentage point at 2 per cent, and Ukip are up one percentage point to 
2 per cent.

The poll of 1,003 adults in Scotland also asked people who they feel would “try to get the best deal for Scotland at Westminster”. Over two-fifths (42 per cent) favour Nicola Sturgeon, with Jim Murphy trailing on 8 per cent and Ed Miliband on 3 per cent.

Mr Miliband has ruled out a formal deal with the SNP, as the Conservatives attempt to fuel fears south of the Border over the prospect of Scottish Nationalists holding influence at Westminster.

But speaking about Mr Miliband, SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said last night: “I wish that he would be tougher and not be kicked around so much by the Tories. I think he should be bolder in saying that he will respect the wishes of voters.

“That means talking to others, it means compromising. I was the deputy leader of a minority government for four years. At a very practical level, unless you are prepared to respect the wishes of the people who vote, and talk to and compromise with other parties, you don’t get your business through.”

Ms Sturgeon had earlier said that the fixed-term parliament act means governments can be defeated on specific issues without being brought down.

“Exercising influence in a parliament is not just about the Queen’s speech,” Ms Sturgeon said yesterday.