Exclusive:Why new poll shows John Swinney has had ‘little success’ in restoring SNP’s fortunes as 'dark cloud' hangs over party

The SNP would be left with just 17 seats, poll suggests

John Swinney has had “little success in restoring the SNP’s fortunes”, a new poll for The Scotsman has found, with the number of Nationalist MPs at Westminster on course to be “significantly diminished” in a renewed blow for the First Minister.

The poll by Savanta for The Scotsman suggests the SNP would be reduced to 17 MPs – a large drop on the party’s existing tally of 43 and well below its goal of winning a majority of Scottish seats at the general election to “intensify the pressure” for a second independence referendum.

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Meanwhile, Labour would win 29 seats – a dramatic increase on the two it has held.

Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the downfall of Humza Yousaf hangs over the SNP “like a dark cloud”.

Mr Swinney, the First Minister and SNP leader, launched his party’s general election manifesto in Edinburgh on Wednesday, insisting the case for a second referendum would be “intensified” if the Nationalists won a majority of seats in Scotland at the general election.

He refused to say what failing to do so would mean for the independence movement.

Emma Levin, associate director at Savanta, said: “Our latest Scottish voting intention suggests a stable picture, with Labour’s narrow lead in Scotland relatively unchanged since before the election campaign and John Swinney’s elevation to First Minister.

“The SNP appear to have successfully stopped their downward spiral, but this would still mean that Scotland would contribute to a UK-wide majority for Labour.

"If nothing changes between now and polling day, Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer will have overseen Labour’s return to their previously long-established position as Scotland’s largest party. It’s more than both men could’ve hoped for, even several years ago.”

Prof Curtice said: “John Swinney has done his best. But so far he has had little success in restoring the SNP’s fortunes. The party is stuck on the 33 per cent figure for Westminster vote intentions that Savanta recorded for the party at the beginning of the campaign.

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"Indeed, it is the same figure that Savanta previously reported shortly after the downfall of Humza Yousaf, an event that now hangs over the party like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, because Labour have edged up a point, they now trail their principal opponents by five rather than four points.

“Much of the SNP’s campaign efforts have involved suggesting that a UK Labour government would fail to provide the resources needed to finance Scotland’s public services, including not least the health service north of the Border. However, this line of attack seems to have made little impression.”

The polling expert added: “The SNP’s failure to make much progress is reflected above all in the party’s continued failure to win over the support of those who would still vote for independence. Just 64 per cent of current Yes supporters say they will vote SNP, little different from the 65 per cent who did so in Savanta’s last poll. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) are backing Labour, up from 20 per cent.

"Unless those Yes Labour supporters are won over in the next fortnight, the band of SNP MPs at Westminster looks set to be significantly diminished.”

Savanta interviewed 1,069 Scottish adults aged 16 and over online between June 14-18. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of Scottish adults by age, gender, region and past voting behaviour.

According to the new poll, Labour would secure 38 per cent of the vote if a general election was held tomorrow, which is an increase of one point since the last Savanta poll in Scotland at the end of May.

The SNP is on 33 per cent, which is unchanged. The Conservatives are on 15 per cent, which is a fall of two points, the Liberal Democrats are on 7 per cent (unchanged) and ‘other’ is on 7 per cent (+2).

Prof Curtice said this would see the SNP return 17 MPs, while Labour would increase its number of seats from two to 29. The Conservatives would win six seats and the Liberal Democrats five.

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Voting intentions at Holyrood show the SNP on 36 per cent (+1) for the constituency vote, just ahead of Labour on 35 per cent (+1). The Conservatives are on 16 per cent (-1), while the Liberal Democrats are on 7 per cent (-1) and ‘other’ is on 6 per cent (unchanged).

On the more proportional regional list vote, Labour and the SNP are neck-and-neck, with both on 29 per cent – a fall of one point for the SNP, while Labour is unchanged. The Conservatives are on 16 per cent (-2), the Greens on 12 per cent (+2) and the Liberal Democrats on 10 per cent (unchanged). ‘Other’ is on 5 per cent (+1).

Under analysis by Prof Curtice, this would give the SNP 42 MSPs, with Labour on 41. The Conservatives would have 20 MSPs, the Liberal Democrats 12 and the Greens 14.

Support for independence remains split, with 51 per cent in favour of remaining in the UK and 49 per cent backing separation, once undecideds are excluded.

In its manifesto, the SNP called for more spending by the UK government, saying the NHS should receive a £10 billion top-up that would result in an extra £1.6bn for the Scottish Government.

It also demanded the full devolution of tax powers to Scotland, and the extension of the windfall tax to companies making excess profits “rather than the raid on the north east of Scotland proposed by Labour and the Tories”.

The SNP has spent much of the general election campaign arguing Labour’s plans would lead to spending cuts. Mr Swinney said Labour “is going to pick up where the Tories left off with spending cuts, and that will be a disastrous outcome for Scotland”.

But the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the SNP’s manifesto ignored the “big fiscal challenges” an independent Scotland would immediately face.

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IFS associate director David Phillips said: “The SNP manifesto calls for UK-wide spending plans to be topped up. This is to avoid the need to cut spending on unprotected areas, and to increase spending on, in particular, the NHS, working-age benefits, overseas aid and green investment.

“They argue that the cost of this could be met by UK-wide tax rises, additional economic growth from the UK re-joining the EU in the coming Parliament, and additional borrowing.

“However, in its call for Scottish independence, the SNP ignores the potential hit to economic growth from leaving the UK, and the big fiscal challenges an independent Scotland would immediately have to confront.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused the SNP of only focusing on “constitutional wrangling”, adding: “They have already made Scotland the highest tax capital of the UK, and if Labour are elected, they would just do the same, hike up everyone’s taxes, just like the SNP have done.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the party was “woefully out of touch”. She said: “After 17 years of broken promises and decline in government, no-one is buying the SNP’s latest string of half-baked and unserious pledges.”



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