General Election: Scots voters trust Lib Dems but are short on detail

SCOTTISH voters trust the Lib Dems more than either of the two other major parties, but know least detail about their manifesto pledges, according to a poll commissioned by The Scotsman.

• The Liberal Democrats continue to enjoy strong polling following a good performance by Nick Clegg in last Thursday's televised leaders debate

The YouGov poll results came as Labour leader Gordon Brown signalled an onslaught on Liberal Democrat policies as both Labour and the Conservatives fought to come to terms with the fallout of the leaders debate.

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Alarmed by the success of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in the televised debate last Thursday and the surge of the support for his party, strategists for the big two have decided that the Lib Dems have been aided by a lack of scrutiny over what they stand for.

This appears to have been backed up in the YouGov poll which has revealed there is less awareness of the Liberal Democrat manifesto than that of the other two UK parties.

Conversely there appears to be far greater trust that the Liberal Democrats would deliver on their promises. There was a marked increase in trust of the Lib Dems from 1,471 respondents after the debate, with 56 per cent claiming to trust them on manifesto promises compared to 41 per cent before.

The Scotsman understands there is serious concern in the Labour and Tory camps that Mr Clegg and Vince Cable in the Chancellors' debate last month were able to come out as winners with one clear message that they were "not Labour or Conservative".

Both Labour and the Tories now plan to highlight more unpopular parts of the Liberal Democrat manifesto such as a decision not to protect health spending which will have consequences for a third of the Scottish budget.

In the next debate it is thought the Tories will focus on the Lib Dems' pro-European stance and vague position on immigration as well as the impact of their proposed defence cuts.

However, Labour is split over how to tackle the Lib Dem threat. Home Secretary Alan Johnson has urged the party to not paint a hung parliament as a disaster.

Read more:

Scots chiefs would put their faith in Vince Cable

Scepticism grows on Tories' key policies

Workers out to defend jobs amid Tory fears

But in an interview yesterday Mr Brown refused to contemplate a coalition. He insisted the Lib Dems' economic policies were a "mistake" and attacked their plans to cut tax credits and the child trust fund. He added that he was "determined to expose" the party's policies in the run-up to 6 May.

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Taking a swipe at polls which suggested Mr Clegg was now more popular than Winston Churchill, Mr Brown said that the election was "not X-Factor". He admitted he "lost on style" on Thursday, but added: "You campaign in style and govern in substance and I think the voters will know that in the end."

Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne also suggested his party would take on the Lib Dems through "policy debate" rather than personal attacks.

The Scotsman poll showed that 45 per cent were aware of the Lib Dem manifesto compared to 52 per cent for the Tories and 53 per cent for Labour.

However, voters did not think Labour would keep a commitment not to raise income tax (minus 14 per cent) or stop immigrants (minus 27 per cent), with only a positive rating for protecting pensioners winter fuel payments (plus 15 per cent).

The Tories fared worse, with those polled showing scepticism over three key policy claims on reducing immigration (minus 23 per cent), reversing National Insurance contribution rises (minus 6 per cent) and sacking bad MPs (minus 18 per cent).

However, the Liberal Democrats won positive ratings on two of three areas – on not taxing income up to 10,000 (plus 27 per cent) and reforming the Commons (plus 9 per cent). Only reforming the banks appeared to attract doubts (minus 5 per cent).

The Lib Dems were the only party to come out with a positive trust rating on their manifesto as a whole with 48 per cent to 42 per cent.

The Conservatives only had 24 per cent trust rating compared to 72 per cent against, and Labour had 41 per cent in favour to 55 per cent against.

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Mark Lazarowicz, Labour's candidate in Edinburgh North and Leith under threat from the Lib Dems, said: "The trouble with the Liberal Democrats is that behind their warm words, their policies would make many people worse off. Their plan to cut tax credits and child trust funds will hurt Scottish families in the pocket."

But a buoyant Liberal Democrat party in Scotland yesterday announced that it was now the true rival for Labour north of the Border.

Scottish party deputy leader Michael Moore said: "The Scotsman's poll confirms what we're finding on the doorsteps across Scotland. People trust the Liberal Democrats to deliver. On our pledges for jobs, fairer taxes, a new politics and a fair start for our children."

However, the Conservatives' Scottish campaign director David McLetchie warned that voting for the Liberal Democrats was the best way to return Mr Brown, with expectations of a coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems growing.

"Scotland has a clear choice", he said. "It can either vote yellow and get Brown, or vote blue to be part of that change."

• There was some good news for Tory leader David Cameron in the poll, with 48 per cent appearing to agree with him that "we are all in this together" and accepting that ordinary people need to do more and the government less.