Scottish elections 2021: SNP ahead for May vote, but new poll is second to show drop in support for independence

A new poll puts the SNP well ahead of other parties for May's election.A new poll puts the SNP well ahead of other parties for May's election.
A new poll puts the SNP well ahead of other parties for May's election.
The SNP is still on course to win at the Scottish Parliament elections according to a new poll, although support for the party has dipped slightly, while public backing for independence has also fallen.

A new poll predicts that the SNP will win 72 of the 129 seats in Holyrood – nine more than now and giving the party a majority of 15 – with the Scottish Conservatives falling to 26 seats, Scottish Labour dropping to 17, while the Scottish Greens would double to nine and the Scottish Liberal Democrats gain one to five MSPs.

The poll, by Ipsos MORI for STV News, found that among those expressing a voting intention, 52 per cent of Scots are likely to vote for the SNP in the constituency vote at the Holyrood elections, a fall of three percentage points since last November, while 23 per cent said they would vote for the Scottish Conservatives and just 15 per cent back Scottish Labour.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the regional list the SNP vote share is the largest at 47 per cent, with the Conservatives on 22 per cent, Labour dropping two percentage points to 14 per cent, the Scottish Greens on eight per cent and the Liberal Democrats on six.

Read More
Nicola Sturgeon urged by 120 SNP women to condemn threats made against Joanna Ch...

The poll of 1,031 adults conducted by telephone between February 15 and 21, also found that, with don’t knows excluded, 52 per cent would vote Yes in a second independence referendum, a fall of four percentage points since the last Ipsos MORI survey in November, with 48 per cent voting No.

With don’t knows included, the figures are 48 per cent for Yes and 44 per cent for no with seven per cent undecided.

This follows a Scotsman poll by Savanta ComRes earlier this month which found support for independence had dropped below 50 per cent when don’t knows were included for the first time since December, with 47 per cent of Scots intending to vote Yes, 42 per cent voting No, and 10 per cent undecided.

When the don’t knows were excluded, the support for independence was 53 per cent, with No backed by 47 per cent of Scots.

The latest poll comes as the SNP is embroiled in internal divisions over allegations by former first minister Alex Salmond that the government of Nicola Sturgeon and others conspired to “remove” him from public life. A Scottish Parliament inquiry into the government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond is due to hear from him tomorrow, with Ms Sturgeon scheduled to give evidence next Wednesday.

As a result it found that 36 per cent of Scots say the Holyrood inquiry has made them less favourable towards the SNP, although most – 58 per cent – say it has made no difference to their view of the party. Among those who voted SNP at the last General Election, 21 per cent said it has made them less favourable towards the SNP.

Commenting on the poll Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “This latest poll shows a fall in support for independence, and a corresponding increase in support for staying in the Union – though Yes still has a four-point lead over No.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"That’s important for Scotland’s political parties, since independence is the top issue voters say will help them make up their minds about which party to vote for in May’s Holyrood elections.

"At this point the SNP look on course to win a majority of seats, but the next few weeks are set to be challenging for the party, with the Salmond inquiry ongoing – and our poll shows that this issue has started to cut through with Scottish voters.”

The pollsters found that when asked what the most important issue helping decide which party to vote for, independence came out top for most people at 44 per cent, followed by education on 32 per cent, healthcare on 25 per cent and coronavirus on 20 per cent.

However three in ten said they may change their mind about which party they’ll cast their constituency vote for – with Labour voters most likely to change their mind and switch to the SNP. Meanwhile SNP voters who may change their mind are most likely to consider Labour.

Asked if the UK government should allow a second independence referendum within the next five years if the SNP does win a majority in May, 56 per cent of those polled said it should, while 41 per cent said Boris Johnson should not grant a new vote on separation – a fall of eight percentage points since October last year.

And in the event the SNP does wins a majority but the UK government refuses a Section 30 Order, 42 per cent said the Scottish Government should accept that decision, although 34 per cent think it should go to court to “establish a legal basis” for holding a referendum. A further 18 per cent say the Scottish Government should hold another referendum without the UK government’s consent.

Nicola Sturgeon also remains the highest rated party leader among the Scottish public, with a ‘net’ satisfaction rating of +32 – although this is 16 points lower than in October 2020.

Scots are split on whether Anas Sarwar or Monica Lennon would make the best leader for Scottish Labour – 28 per cent say Mr Sarwar would be the best leader and 25 per cent favour Ms Lennon, while 44 per cent don’t know. Among those who say they would vote Labour in May, Mr Sarwar enjoys a narrow lead, with 40 per cent saying he would be the best leader compared with 35 per cent who say the same of Ms Lennon.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Responding to the poll, a Scottish Conservative spokesman said: "At the same stage in 2016, the polls put us on lower numbers than these, but we stopped an SNP majority. As Scotland's largest opposition party, we can do so again in May's election.”

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown, said the poll showed voters were “continuing to put their trust in the SNP”. He added: “The people of Scotland want to have their say on Scotland’s future in a post-pandemic referendum, and the clearest way to secure that opportunity is with an SNP majority in May.

“While today’s findings are encouraging, they underline the importance of Both Votes SNP at the election to stop Boris Johnson’s Tory party having the whip hand over Scotland.”

The poll was welcomed by the Scottish Greens, as it would see the party reach a record number of MSPs. Co-leader Lorna Slater said: “We’ll continue to put the work in to show exactly why electing more Green MSPs will make a difference.”

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.