SNP set to lose 18 seats to Scottish Labour at next general election in worrying poll for Humza Yousaf

The SNP are set to lose 18 seats to rivals Scottish Labour at the next general election, the first poll undertaken since Humza Yousaf was elected First Minister suggests.

In a worrying start to his time in office the poll, undertaken by Savanta for The Scotsman, tightens the gap between Labour and the SNP and would see a significant hit to the party’s support in Holyrood.

One seat at risk of being won by Labour is Mr Yousaf’s own Scottish Parliamentary seat, Glasgow Pollok.

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Independence support, however, has barely changed, dropping just one point when don’t knows are excluded to 48 per cent, with support for the union at 52 per cent.

Humza Yousaf speaking at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, after it was announced that he is the new Scottish National Party leader, and would become the next First Minister of Scotland. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.Humza Yousaf speaking at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, after it was announced that he is the new Scottish National Party leader, and would become the next First Minister of Scotland. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.
Humza Yousaf speaking at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, after it was announced that he is the new Scottish National Party leader, and would become the next First Minister of Scotland. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.

With don’t knows included, support for Yes and No both increased by one point to 45 and 47 per cent respectively, with undecideds dropping one point to eight per cent.

The poll interviewed 1,009 Scottish adults aged 16 and over online between Tuesday, March 28 and Friday, March 31.

It underlines the challenge left by Nicola Sturgeon for Mr Yousaf who will attempt to keep the pro-independence voting bloc of the Scottish public, which still represents around 45 per cent of Scotland, behind the SNP.

On current support, however, the next general election could be a tough moment for the new First Minister and SNP leader.

The poll has the SNP maintaining its position as Scotland’s most popular party with 39 per cent of the vote, down three points since the last poll in this series.

With one of the smallest gaps between the SNP and its nearest challengers since the first poll after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 when their lead was just two points ahead of Labour, Anas Sarwar’s party sits six points behind Mr Yousaf’s on 33 per cent.

This would result in a significant swing of seats towards Scottish Labour from the SNP at the next election, with Electoral Calculus predicting a loss of 18 seats, including the two now held by Alba defectors and the independent, Margaret Ferrier, who is facing a recall petition and a probable by-election.

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In 2017, the last time the SNP lost significant seats in an election, the party lost 21 and dropped from 54 to 35 seats.

If this poll was the result for the next election, they would drop from 48 to 30, with Labour jumping to 18.

The Scottish Conservatives are up two points to 19 per cent of the vote, a result which would see them retain all six seats they currently hold in Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats remain static on six per cent, resulting in a one seat gain from the SNP. Other parties make up the remaining four per cent of the vote share.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said the gap between Labour and the SNP was the “narrowest it’s been for many years”.

He said: “Much has been hypothesised about the impact the SNP’s leader could have on not only Scottish politics, but on the outcome of the next UK-wide General Election, and in the first poll conducted since Humza Yousaf was elected, we find the SNP down a further three points in Scotland’s Westminster VI, and the gap between them and Labour the narrowest it’s been for many years.”

“Obviously Yousaf will need time to settle in, and polling immediately after a new leader can be difficult to draw strong conclusions from. However, compared to other new leaders the UK political scene has experienced in the last 12 months, it’s obvious there’s no ‘bounce’ for Yousaf here, and that speaks to the task he has on his hands.

"Replacing Sturgeon, a generally well-liked and unifying figure, would be difficult for any new leader, but even more so after a fractious leadership election where it became apparent Sturgeon did such a great job in masking some of the SNP’s divisions during her tenure that Yousaf now must sew back together.”

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He added: “Labour, clearly, is ready to capitalise if he fails to do so. During the Truss premiership it looked as if Labour could comfortably win a General Election in spite of the SNP’s Scottish dominance.

"While they’re still streets ahead in UK-wide polls, the gap between them and the Conservatives is not what it once was, and being able to rely on more-than-a-smattering of Scottish seats would be a cushion that Keir Starmer will be grateful to inherit off the back of a nationalist changing of the guard.”

The figures facing Mr Yousaf in a Holyrood context will also represent cause for concern for the new SNP leader.

The party is down four points to 39 per cent in the constituency vote, but is up one point to 33 per cent in the list vote.

Scottish Labour are seven points behind on 33 per cent in the constituency ballot, and up three points to 30 per cent in the list ballot.

The Scottish Conservatives are also up two points in each of the ballots, up to 19 and 18 per cent in the constituency and list respectively.

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Scottish Liberal Democrats are down one and two points in the constituency and list vote respectively to seven per cent in both.

The Scottish Greens have, however, dropped four points to 10 per cent in the list vote.

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Such a result in a Holyrood election would see the SNP drop from 64 to 48 seats, a loss of 16, and Labour almost double from 22 to 40.

With the Greens on 10 seats, the chances of a unionist coalition of Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats, equal to 73 seats and enough for a comfortable majority, would rise significantly.

It would also see the SNP and Labour win almost exactly the same number of seats as they did in the 2007 election victory for Alex Salmond.

The SNP’s internal war during its leadership election has also damaged the public perception of the party, with 41 per cent stating they now had a worse view of it than prior to Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.

Just 10 per cent said they had a better view, though the SNP will be relieved that 40 per cent of the public said their view had not changed. However, a third (34 per cent) of SNP voters said their opinion of the party had decreased.

Mr Yousaf’s favourability ratings could also pose a problem in taking on the Scottish Labour leader at the next general and Holyrood election.

Mr Sarwar has a net favourability rating of -1 per cent, 11 points ahead of Mr Yousaf who is on -12 per cent. However, more people say they don’t know how they feel with Mr Sarwar (12 per cent) than Mr Yousaf (four per cent).

The new First Minister has however seen a boost to his popularity since just after Ms Sturgeon’s resignation when the last Savanta poll for The Scotsman took place.

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Since then he has seen a six point jump in his overall popularity, and a 19 point jump among SNP voters (to +20 overall). Kate Forbes’ popularity among the public and SNP voters dipped over the same period, down two points and 15 points respectively to -2 and +5 overall.

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