By Catherine Henderson
A YouGov poll, commissioned by the Scottish Green Party and released this weekend, showed for the first time Labour ahead of the SNP in Scotland.
The results suggest that Labour would win 45 seats against the SNP‘s 41 seats, with Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party with moderate gains of 2 to 3 seats. The results sound an early warning bell for the SNP who with 18 months to go before the next Holyrood election will be unsettled by this shift in voting support.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary John Park, who last week was given responsibility for co-ordinating Labour’s election campaign, says “It’s not surprising that the SNP vote is slipping away, people are angry about how the Government dealt with the Megrahi affair, on top of that there’s been an absence of response to the current economic climate. This is only one poll and there’s 18 months to go till the next election but there’s no denying that it does give us a sense of motivation.”
Asked why Labour feels the SNP are losing votes, Park says “It’s a complete indulgence right now to be thinking about independence, Scottish voters are worried about jobs, redundancies and the overall economy. All political debate with the SNP is about independence, it’s the elephant in the room that prevents us from discussing the issues that really matter.”
With a predicted New Labour defeat in the offing at the next Westminster election Park seems unconcerned about the knock-on impact that could have on a Holyrood election result. “Scottish voters are sophisticated, they treat these elections differently and they also remember clearly the impact of a Conservative government. We need to push forward with a distinctive Scottish agenda that Scottish people will get behind.”
Despite the upswing for Labour the poll shows that they are still struggling to increase their list vote, Park’s response to this is one of educating the voter “In the last election people saw the list as an alternative vote and as less important. We’ve got a job to do to explain to voters that they need to take that vote just as seriously as their constituency vote.”
An SNP spokesperson, commenting on the poll said “When it comes to an election, and the list vote effectively determines who becomes First Minister, there is no contest between Alex Salmond and the invisible Iain Gray.”