Scottish election polls: what are the latest opinion polls for the 2021 election - and what happened in 2016?

Counting in the Scottish Parliament election is underway - so what are the current result predictions?

The leaders of each major party are out campaigning before the Scottish Parliament election next week as polls predict the result (Credit: Mark Hall)

Millions of voters in Scotland have cast their votes with counting now underway.

On Thursday 6 May, people in the country cast their ballots to elect MSPs for the next five years.

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Candidates were tirelessly campaigning to try and win voters over, but it all comes down to what Scots decide for their two votes - the constituency vote and the regional list vote - on election day.

Major polls are focusing on the progress of the five largest parties - the SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats - but there is also interest in the popularity of Alex Salmond’s new, pro-independence party Alba.

So, what are the final opinion polls for the Scottish election?

We take a look.

What happened last time?

To put the current polls in context, it is significant to look at the outcome of the 2016 Scottish election.

The SNP won the vote as the largest party in Holyrood with 63 seats (59 out of 73 constituency seats and four regional list seats).

But that result meant a loss of the previous overall majority and six seats less for Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

The Scottish Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson at the time, more than doubled its number of seats from 15 to 31.

That meant the Tories overtook Scottish Labour to become the main opposition party in the parliament, as Labour lost 13 seats and ended up with 24.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens went up from two to six seats, and the Liberal Democrats plateaued on five.

What are the final polls saying?

This time around, the SNP is seeking another overall majority to gain a mandate to hold a second independence referendum - the dominating issue of this year’s election - meaning the party needs 65 seats.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party is currently on course to win a fourth term in office, but the question is whether that majority is possible.

According to a final study by YouGov for The Times, the SNP will secure a four-seat majority.

It predicts that the party will gain 52 per cent in the constituency vote and 38 per cent on the regional list.

Similarly, the latest Panelbase poll, for The Sunday Times, found the SNP will secure a “knife-edge” majority in the election.

It is predicted that the party would return exactly 65 seats in Holyrood – the minimum required for an overall majority.

Support for the SNP is up in this poll compared to a previous Panelbase survey which predicted the party would become the dominant force in the Scottish Parliament with 61 seats.

What does that mean for the other pro-independence parties?

Meanwhile, the YouGov study forecasts that the Scottish Greens could more than double their number of MSPs, taking 13 per cent on the regional vote.

The Panelbase poll also suggests that pro-independence parties Alba and the Scottish Greens would gain seats, resulting in a pro-independence majority of 25.

The Greens are forecast to win a record nine MSPs for the party, while Alex Salmond’s new party would claim three seats.

Another poll, published on 2 May by BMG for The Herald, showed that Nicola Sturgeon’s party would return 68 MSPs to Holyrood in an outright majority.

Meanwhile, Alba would have two MSPs and the Greens would also win nine seats, equalling a pro-independence majority of 29.

The BMG poll asked 1023 Scots of voting age between April 27 and 30.

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What about the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour?

When it comes to the race between the main Unionist parties, previous polls have shown that Scottish Labour could do well enough in the ballots to overtake the Scottish Conservatives to become the second largest party in Holyrood.

The final YouGov poll puts the Tories down to win 26 seats – down from five from the last election – remaining as the second largest party.

And Labour, the poll suggests, could drop down to 17 seats, losing seven.

The latest Panelbase projected outcome also saw the Conservatives remain as the second largest party, losing three seats from 2016 and returning 28 MSPs.

Labour, according to the poll, is then down six to 18 seats, which would be the party’s worst result in any Holyrood election.

And the Scottish Liberal Democrats are forecast to win an extra seat to reach six MSPs.

In the BMG poll, the Tories are forecast to win 25 seats and Labour are again predicted to win 18 – meaning a loss of six for each party.