THE Conservatives could become the second largest party at Holyrood in May’s election, ousting Labour from its role as official opposition, a new poll has suggested.
A survey by Survation for the Daily Record newspaper has support for Labour and the Tories tied on 18 per cent in the regional part of the ballot.
And while Labour are ahead of the Conservatives in the constituency section - with 20 per cent backing Kezia Dugdale’s party compared to 16 per cent for Ruth Davidson’s - predictions indicate Labour could be left with one fewer MSP at Holyrood.
Labour could have 21 representatives at the Scottish Parliament, with the Tories forecast to have 22 - their best Scottish election result ever - according to the Scotland Votes seat predictor.
Meanwhile the SNP are forecast to return 70 MSPs, one more than the party won in 2011, with the poll indicating they could win 54 per cent of the vote in the constituency section of the ballot and 42 per cent in the regional vote.
The Greens polled 10 per cent in the regional section, which could see the party have nine MSPs, up from two, while the Liberal Democrats could increase their representation at Holyrood from five MSPs to six.
The UK Independence Party (Ukip) could return one MSP, their first ever representative in the Scottish Parliament.
Looking at the popularity ratings of the party leaders, Survation found Ms Dugdale was behind Ms Davidson and the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.
The Scottish Labour leader scored -9, compared to -6 for Ms Davidson and -7 for Mr Rennie.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was the only leader to have a positive rating, at +21, while Green co-convener Patrick Harvie polled -1.
SNP business convener Derek Mackay said the poll was “very positive” for nationalists, but an “absolute disaster for Kezia Dugdale on the morning of her own conference”.
He said: “It’s clear people are continuing to reject a chaotic and divided Labour party which isn’t even regarded as a credible party of opposition, never mind a credible party of government - and which finds itself locked in a desperate battle for second place with the Tories.
“And with their complete lack of any positive vision for Scotland, Labour’s position is only going to get worse.
“It’s also heartening to see such positive approval ratings for Nicola Sturgeon - the only leader in Scotland with positive ratings - while Kezia Dugdale finds herself even more unpopular than a right-wing Tory leader.”
But he stressed: “Of course, we do not take even a single vote for granted - and from now until May we will be working harder than ever to maintain the trust of people in Scotland and secure the re-election of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister and an SNP Government with a track record of delivering for Scotland.”
Ms Dugdale however told BBC Scotland that she expected Labour to “do well” in the May election.
“I want to be First Minister,” she said.
“I want Nicola Sturgeon’s desk, I want her chair, I want the possibility of the power she has at her fingertips, so I’m aiming for that.”
Ms Dugdale stressed she is “committed to renewing the fortunes of the Scottish Labour Party over the longer term” and she dismissed suggestions that the Conservatives could come in second.
“I really discount that in its entirety,” she said.
“Ruth Davidson is funny, she’s charismatic, but she’s a Tory and with plans like cutting £4 billion away from people with disabilities in this country, the party of the bedroom tax and hte poll tax, is still thought of poorly in the minds of Scots.”