LABOUR continues to lag behind the SNP in the contest for Westminster, a new poll has indicated, with only a fifth of people in Scotland believing Ed Miliband is the best choice for Prime Minister.
Support for Labour is up to 28 per cent, Survation found, a rise of two points from January.
But the research, carried out for the Daily Record, showed 45 per cent of voters could back the SNP on May 7, with support for Nicola Sturgeon’s party down by one point.
The Conservatives are up one point to 15 per cent, the poll suggested, while support for the Liberal Democrats fell by two points to 5 per cent, with 7 per cent of people supporting other parties.
A total of 1,011 people were questioned for the research, which also looked at who voters believe would be the best choice for prime minister.
David Cameron was backed by 23 per cent, ahead of Mr Miliband, who was the top choice for 19 per cent, with 6 per cent of people wanting to see UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage in Number 10 while 5 per cent favour Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy conceded: “This poll shows that Scottish Labour has a big gap to close before the General Election.”
But he added: “David Cameron will be rubbing his hands when he sees this poll. It’s a simple fact that since before the Second World War the largest party has formed the government. The more seats the SNP get from Labour, the more likely it is the Tories will be the biggest party across the UK and David Cameron will get into government through the back door.
“If this poll is repeated on election day then the Tories could win and that’s the worst possible outcome for Scotland.”
Douglas Alexander, Labour’s general election strategy chief argued last year’s independence referendum was still impacting on the polls, and suggested support for his party could rise in the run up to May.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “For two years the argument in Scotland has largely been framed in relation to Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom. I think as the weeks move forward and we look ahead to May 7 the focus of Scottish politics will move towards the choice people have as to ultimately whether we have a Labour government or a Conservative government.
“In those circumstances I think Scottish Labour will be pressing the case strongly that actually if you want the surest and safest way to get rid of the Conservatives, every one less Labour MP here in Scotland will actually make it more likely David Cameron leads the largest party and so is able to work to establish a new government.”
He added: “I think people tend to think about the electoral contest they’ve been involved in till they are almost obliged to think about the next one.”
Mr Alexander said UK wide polling showed Labour was doing well in key marginal seats.
“We are in a position where a Labour government is within our reach,” he said.
“The one thing in Scotland that would inhibit the prospects of that Labour government would be if we lost a significant number of Labour seats.”
But he added: “I believe the overriding choice will be to do whatever it takes to get rid of the Conservative Government. That means electing Labour to make sure we’ve got more Members of Parliament than the Conservatives.”
SNP Westminster leader and campaign director Angus Robertson said: “The General Election gives the people of Scotland the opportunity to have real power at Westminster by electing a strong team of SNP MPs to achieve change - including an alternative to austerity.”
Mr Robertson said: “This is another excellent poll for the SNP showing that our strong lead over Labour is continuing - but we are taking absolutely nothing for granted, and are working hard for every vote and every seat in May.”
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