Individual constituency studies published by former Tory peer Lord Ashcroft show Mark Lazarowicz is on course to lose his Edinburgh North and Leith seat to the SNP by 14 percentage points and shadow business minister Ian Murray would lose Edinburgh South to the Nationalists by a narrower margin of three percentage points. An earlier Ashcroft poll showed the SNP also taking Edinburgh South West – where Labour’s Alistair Darling is retiring.
And although there has not been an Ashcroft survey in Labour’s other seat in the Capital, Edinburgh East, it requires a much smaller swing than the others for the Nats to win.
The SNP said the polls showed it was gaining support not only in areas which had voted Yes in the referendum, but also areas which voted No.
But Labour played down the prospect of a wipeout in the Capital, insisting the polls were a “snapshot” showing Edinburgh South, in particular, was “too close to call” and the party was still campaigning hard.
In Edinburgh North and Leith, the poll shows the SNP, represented by candidate Deidre Brock, leading Labour by 14 points – 43 per cent to 29 – with the Tories on 14 per cent, Lib Dems on six and others seven.
In 2010, Mr Lazarowicz had a majority of 1724 over the Lib Dems with 38 per cent of the vote to their 34 while the SNP was in fourth place with just ten per cent.
The poll for Edinburgh South shows the SNP three points ahead of Labour – 37 per cent to 34 – with the Tories on 16 per cent, Lib Dems on eight and others six.
Last time, Mr Murray was just one point ahead of the Lib Dems – 35 per cent to 34 – while the Tories polled 22 per cent and the SNP was fourth on eight.
SNP general election campaign director Angus Robertson said: “These constituency polls are very welcome, indicating SNP support continuing to grow across Scotland – encompassing areas which voted No as well as areas which voted Yes. If people place their trust in the SNP on May 7, our pledge is to be a strong voice at Westminster for the whole of Scotland. The polls suggest that our policy to deliver jobs, growth and investment in services in place of Westminster cuts has huge appeal.
“While these polls are encouraging, we will keep working hard to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster with a strong team of SNP MPs.
“We are taking absolutely nothing for granted, and will keep speaking to people on doorsteps and in communities across the country to persuade them to put their trust in the SNP.”
Privately, Labour sources claimed the Ashcroft results did not reflect what they were finding on the doorstep.
And Mr Murray, who won Edinburgh South in 2010 by just 316 votes in a close fight with the Liberal Democrats, said he was working hard to persuade voters to back him again.
He said: “I’ve always said it’s too close to call. We’ve been saying that for some time. But if people want a Labour government they can’t vote SNP and keep their fingers crossed they get a Labour government.
“I’m still working hard, campaigning on my local record. If people want to keep Ian Murray as their MP they have to vote accordingly.
“A Lord Ashcroft poll is a snapshot, not a prediction. Everything is within the margin.
“We’re fighting street by street for every single vote, persuading people of our progressive agenda. We’re getting great feedback from people we have helped – I have helped tens of thousands of people in the last five years and people are responding to that.
“Ashcroft doesn’t do that. Ashcroft phones them and asks what they’re voting at the general election. The bottom line is it’s all within the margin of error and if you take all those factors into account it’s close to call.”
The SNP’s Edinburgh South candidate, Neil Hay, said it was “pretty encouraging” to be ahead of an incumbent who was also a frontbencher and said the SNP’s rise from just eight per cent last time to 37 per cent now was “phenomenal”.
He said: “There is the distinct possibility that Labour will lose all its seats in Edinburgh, which would be a fantastic result for us.”
He said the Ashcroft figures were in line with their own canvassing. “If anything, the Labour figure is higher than we’re finding.”
In February, an Ashcroft poll in Edinburgh South West – where Mr Darling had an 8447 majority last time – found the SNP on 40 per cent to Labour’s 27 per cent.
Meanwhile, a UK-wide poll by Lord Ashcroft gave the Conservatives a four-point lead over Labour, the party’s largest lead in the polling series in six weeks.
The survey put the Tories on 34 per cent, up one, while Labour was on 30, down three points on last week’s results.
The lead would not be enough to produce an overall majority for David Cameron, however, and is still within the margin of error.
But in a poll of polls, using a rolling average, Labour held on to a narrow lead over the Conservatives with 34.1 per cent to 33.7. Ukip was in third place on 13.4 per cent ahead of the Lib Dem on 8.2 per cent and the Greens on 5.1 per cent.
Sturgeon seeking to scale new heights as she reveals SNP manifesto for strength
Nicola Sturgeon promised to make Scotland stronger at Westminster but also push for “progressive” policies for the rest of the UK as she launched the SNP manifesto at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.
She told voters north of the Border that backing her party on May 7 would make Scotland’s “voice heard more loudly than it has ever been heard before at Westminster”.
But she also had a message for voters in the rest of the UK, seeking to reassure them about the impact a large group of Nationalist MPs could have.
She said: “I also want to make a pledge today to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If the SNP emerges from this election in a position of influence, we will exercise that influence responsibly and constructively.
“For as long as Scotland remains part of the Westminster system, we have a shared interest with you in making that system work better for all of us – for the many, not the few.”
Key pledges in the manifesto include an end to austerity, proposing a UK spending increase of 0.5 per cent a year to allow at least £140 billion extra investment in the economy and public services; an increase in NHS spending across the UK of £24bn by 2020-21 – £9.5bn above inflation; and an increase in the minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020.
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP wanted to retain the triple lock on pensions and protect the winter fuel allowance; would back plans for an annual UK target of 100,000 affordable homes; and block plans to cut Disability Living Allowance by £3bn.
The party would also oppose renewal of the Trident nuclear weapon programme; support immediate abolition of the bedroom tax; and back a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax and a bankers’ bonus tax.
Responding to fears about what a large number of SNP MSPs planned to do in a hung parliament, she said: “The SNP isn’t going to Westminster to seek to bring down governments or block budgets. We’re going to Westminster to build an alliance for good, positive, progressive, sensible change.”
Lib Dem launch
SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and colleague Jo Swinson will launch their party’s manifesto in Edinburgh today, setting out plans to deliver a “decade of opportunity” for all.
Miliband puts equality at top of agenda
LABOUR leader Ed Miliband put equality at the top of the agenda as he visited Scotland to address the STUC.
He told the annual congress: “Inequality matters, the gap between rich and poor matters, the gap between the richest and everyone else matters.
“Inequality scars our society.
“It doesn’t just make some of us poorer, it makes us all poorer. I came into this party because I believed in equality. I believe it as much today. And that is why we are a Labour Party with a plan for social, economic and democratic change.”
He highlighted policies such as raising the minimum wage, outlawing zero-hours contracts and an end to blacklisting.