John Curtice: poll shows Scottish Labour crisis deepening

Labour leader, Ed Miliband, Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy  and Ed Balls. Picture: Neil Hanna
Labour leader, Ed Miliband, Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy and Ed Balls. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THIS was a desperately bad week for Scottish Labour in the polls. On Monday a TNS Scotland-wide poll put the party on just 24 per cent, no less than 28 points behind an apparently increasing SNP vote.

Then on Friday, Lord Ashcroft released the results of three new polls in supposedly safe Labour seats. In each case the swing to the SNP was higher than when he last polled two months ago. Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Iain Davidson were all said to be heading for defeat.

The news for the party is no better in our latest poll of polls, based on the Scottish sub-samples of the 15 Britain-wide polls that have been published during the last week.

Labour support averaged just 23 per cent in these polls, down four points on last week. In contrast, SNP support edged up for the second week in a row and now stands at 45 per cent.

In short, all three pieces of evidence suggest that rather than beginning to puncture the nationalist balloon, Scottish Labour is if anything falling even further behind the nationalists in the polls.

The party’s attempt to turn the pressure on the nationalists by claiming that full fiscal autonomy would give rise to a £7.6 billion black hole in Scotland’s finances has apparently so far had little impact on voters.

The figures in our latest poll of polls represent a 22 point swing from Labour to the SNP since 2010. Although rather less than the swings in the TNS BMRB and Ashcroft polling, it is still potentially enough to leave Labour with just five seats north of the Border.

Meanwhile, having picked up to 8 per cent last week, Liberal Democrat support has slipped back down again to 6 per cent. That points to the party only hanging on to its outpost in the Northern Isles, a message underlined by four new Ashcroft polls in Liberal Democrat-held seats, in all of which the party was behind.

In contrast, having slipped back last week, Conservative support is back up to 19 per cent, enough to give the party hope that at least it might hang on to its solitary outpost in Dumfries.

• John Curtice is professor of politics, Strathclyde University