Holyrood 2016: Labour voters less left-wing than SNP, finds study

Labour’s standing as the party of the left in Scotland has been called into question after new research found SNP voters are more supportive of left-wing policies.

Labour’s standing as the party of the left in Scotland has been called into question after new research found SNP voters are more supportive of left-wing policies.

It means the divide between the parties is now about more than just independence with SNP backers more enthusiastic about measures such as increasing welfare payments with Holyrood’s new powers, according to the Strathclyde University study.

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Labour has lurched heavily to the left during the campaign, with leader Kezia Dugdale setting plans for across the board tax rises with a manifesto this week hailed as a “return to Labour’s roots”.

It comes as a separate poll indicates that Nicola Sturgeon’s party is on course for a “commanding” victory in next week’s election, although Labour should beat the Tories into second place.

More than 10,000 Scots have used a Voter Guidance toll being run by researchers from Strathclyde University. Labour voters prove to be less likely than SNP supporters to give a left-wing response, which means they support greater government ­intervention.

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Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of SNP voters agree that “welfare payments for people in Scotland with disabilities should be increased”, compared with 56 per cent of Labour voters.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: “On a number of key issues, Labour voters are apparently less keen than SNP supporters on government funding and intervention. The electoral battle between Labour and the SNP at this election is apparently not just about whether Scotland should or should not be in the UK, but also reflects a divergence of view on how big a role voters think the government should play in Scotland.”

The introduction of tuition fees for university students is opposed by 83 per cent of SNP voters, a view shared by fewer than half (47 per cent) of Labour supporters.

In total, 73 per cent of SNP voters can be classified as left wing, while 44 per cent of Labour supporters fall into this category.

A spokesman for the SNP said: “This polling confirms that the SNP is the party whose policies chime with the vast bulk of the Scottish electorate.”

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Meanwhile, a separate poll conducted by Survation found nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of Scots believe Holyrood politicians should blame Westminster less when new powers are devolved to Edinburgh. The same proportion agreed the changes, which will see MSPs take responsibility for income tax and some benefits, will mean the Scottish Parliament will be more accountable than ever before.

The research, which was carried out for the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, found fewer than two-fifths (37 per cent) of those questioned thought political parties had shown the “right level of ambition” in how they plan to use the new tax and welfare powers, with 28 per cent saying they had not been ambitious enough.

Just over a fifth (22 per cent) said the parties’ plans are “too ambitious”, with 14 per cent of voters saying they did not know.

The SNP remains on course for a victory in next week’s Holyrood’ election, another TNS survey yesterday found. But there is better new for Mrs Dugdale with her party enjoying a clear lead over the Tories in the battle for second place.

The SNP lead is down slightly according to TNS, but it still remains on course for an unprecedented third successive term in office, with 52 per cent of Scots backing the SNP in the constituency vote, down four points.