Poll: Scottish Labour look set for second as senior Tory figures' popularity plummets

Scottish Labour are set to secure second place at Thursday’s local election as the popularity of senior Conservatives plummets following the Partygate revelations, a new poll suggests.

Anas Sarwar’s party is set to comfortably beat the Scottish Conservatives into second as the party opens up a seven point lead in the Holyrood constituency voting intention, according to the survey by Savanta ComRes.

It comes as the popularity of senior UK Government ministers plummets among Scots amid the Partygate scandal and the cost-of-living crisis.

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Poll results show the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, previously the most popular Conservative in Scotland, has suffered a 26-point drop in his net favourability and now sits on -48 per cent, down from -22.

He is ten points ahead of Boris Johnson, who also saw a significant drop of seven points, with the Prime Minister’s net favourability sitting at -58 per cent.

However, this has yet to lead to a significant increase in the number of people stating they would vote Yes should a second independence referendum be held.

In total, 45 per cent of Scots would vote Yes, up one point from March, with 47 per cent (down two points) voting No and 7 per cent (static) saying they don’t know.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is set to lead his party to second place at the upcoming local elections. Picture: PAScottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is set to lead his party to second place at the upcoming local elections. Picture: PA
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is set to lead his party to second place at the upcoming local elections. Picture: PA

With undecideds removed, support for Yes sits on 49 per cent, up one point, with No on 51 per cent, down one point.

The poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman, interviewed 1,010 Scottish adults aged 16 and over online between April 26 and May 3.

It suggests the SNP are still by a distance the most popular party in Holyrood, with 46 per cent of voters stating they would back them in constituency vote at a Scottish Parliamentary election.

Figures from the latest Savanta ComRes poll for The ScotsmanFigures from the latest Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman
Figures from the latest Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman

However, their list support continues to slip, with just 31 per cent of Scots backing them with their regional vote, down three from March.

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Scottish Labour has cemented second place with 25 per cent of voters backing them on the constituency vote and 23 per cent on the regional list, up one point respectively.

The Scottish Conservatives, however, continue to suffer from the after-effects of the Partygate scandal, dropping two percentage points across both votes, with 18 per cent of voters stating they would back the party.

It is the largest lead for Scottish Labour over Douglas Ross’ party since December 2015 when Labour was led by Kezia Dugdale.

The last time the gap between the two parties was this significant was in March 2021, when the Scottish Conservatives opened a seven-point lead over Scottish Labour.

The Scottish Greens are also just four points behind the Scottish Conservatives, with their record high vote share of 14 per cent, up one point.

The Liberal Democrats are also profiting, gaining two points to 10 per cent on the regional list and staying static on 7 per cent on the constituency vote.

Former first minister Alex Salmond’s Alba Party are also up one point to 3 per cent.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said Labour’s lead was likely due to the ongoing scandals engulfing the Conservative Party rather than a Sarwar-led revival.

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He said: “Labour’s large lead over the Conservatives in second place of both the constituency and list Holyrood VIs are certainly eye-catching, but as with almost everything related to Labour at the moment, it feels more like a lead more to do with the fortunes of the Conservatives than anything Labour are doing especially well.

"The Conservative’s Westminster fortunes have taken a battering since Partygate, but it appears that the cost-of-living crisis has turned Scottish voters away from the party, and with there unlikely to be any remedy to many voters’ concerns about the affordability of basic items needed to live on the horizon, it’s possible things could get worse for the Conservatives before they get better – including on Thursday in the local elections.”

Just 23 per cent of Scots believe Nicola Sturgeon, who was spoken to by police after forgetting to wear a face mask in a barbershop, should resign over her rule-breaking, including 46 per cent of Tory voters and 6 per cent of SNP voters.

However, voters in Scotland believe both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak should resign from their positions following the two politicians receiving fines for attending gatherings in Number 10 during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

In total, 72 per cent of Scots believe the Prime Minister should resign, with 62 per cent arguing the same should happen with the Chancellor.

This includes 33 per cent and 27 per cent of Tory voters saying each politician respectively should resign.

Mr Sunak, who also faced a scandal around his wife’s tax arrangements and continues to face pressure around the cost of living, has seen his favourability plummet with Tory voters in Scotland.

The number viewing him favourably has dropped 21 points among Tory voters, and those viewing him unfavourably has risen 14 points.

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He is now the third least popular politician in Scotland, only beaten by Mr Johnson and Mr Salmond.

Mr Ross, whose popularity has dipped slightly by two points since March, has not been rewarded for his U-turn around calling for the Prime Minister to resign.

More than half of Scots (56 per cent) said his U-turn was wrong, including 21 per cent of Tory voters.

In total, 39 per cent of Scots said this made them feel worse about the leader, with just 14 per cent of Tory voters stating as such, while 37 per cent said it made them less likely to vote for the Scottish Conservatives. A total of 69 per cent of Tory voters said Mr Ross’s U-turn made no difference to their voting intentions.

On independence, while overall voting intentions have barely shifted since the last poll, a majority of voters expressed doubts over whether the SNP’s planned timetable for a referendum to be held in 2023 would actually happen.

In total, 53 per cent of Scots said it was “unlikely” a referendum would be held by the end of next year, with 39 per cent stating it was “likely”.

Just over half (57 per cent) of SNP voters believe their party leader’s timetable was realistic, with more than a third (37 per cent) suggesting it was unlikely, with 12 per cent stating it was “very unlikely”.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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