Analysis: Scottish Labour face toughest challenge yet after SNP/Green deal

Anas Sarwar is on the precipice of what is likely to be his toughest challenge in politics should the deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens be agreed by each party’s membership this week.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar faces an uphill struggle to win voters back to his party

Scottish Labour have plummeted in the polls since they left office in 2007, and while the 2021 Holyrood election was a tough experience for the party’s still relatively new leader, the next five years may be about to get harder.

The challenge for Sarwar is clear and one he readily accepts – make Scottish Labour a credible alternative to the SNP.

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It’s a noble goal but the coalition of voters Labour relies on in Scotland is shrinking as the party loses out to the SNP as allegiances around independence change and to the Conservatives as unionist sympathies grow sterner.

The party is also failing to gain the support of younger voters and vies for second place with the Greens in regional list voting intention among those aged 16-24.

This could be due to the increased importance younger voters place on the climate emergency, or the fact they are more likely to be pro-Yes, but the drop-off between the constituency and regional vote share for Labour is around 10 per cent.

The deal between the Greens and the SNP underlines this and should strike fear into the party.

Much of the cooperation agreement includes policies Labour voters would be delighted to see delivered and were in the party’s manifesto.

For example, improved rights for tenants, rent controls, upgrades to energy efficiency in homes (five years earlier than in Labour’s manifesto), and work on a Minimum Income Guarantee will all sound good to Labour voting ears.

If the Greens succeed in dragging the self-proclaimed progressive SNP further to the left, Labour voters may see policies they like, albeit delivered by someone else.

It is no secret the Greens promoted their ‘wins’ during the election campaign, such as the u-turn around exam results, to sell themselves to the electorate.

Scottish politics is a crowded field for left-leaning voters and this deal, should the government deliver real change for ordinary people, may reduce still the number choosing Labour over the SNP and the Greens.

Many may simply reject the suggestion an alternative is needed.

Reversing that trend is Sarwar’s Everest and an unenviable task.

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