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by Margaret Taylor
12 June 2024
General election poll: Labour closes in on the SNP

SNP leader John Swinney clashes with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar during an election special edition of BBC Debate Night | Alamy

General election poll: Labour closes in on the SNP

Labour has caught up with the SNP on UK general election voting intentions, with 36 per cent of the Scottish public saying they will back the party on 4 July – the exact same proportion that intends to vote for the nationalists.

Although two-fifths of those surveyed said they might change their minds ahead of polling day, that is a significant shift from the beginning of this year, when 39 per cent of the Scottish electorate indicated a preference for the SNP against 32 per cent for Labour.

The poll, which was carried out by Ipsos on behalf of STV, was conducted between 3 and 9 June – after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the election – and shows that support for the other parties remains broadly unchanged, with the Tories likely to come third in Scotland on 13 per cent of the vote followed by the Lib Dems (five per cent), Reform UK (four per cent), Scottish Greens (three per cent) and Alba (one per cent).

Although there is some uncertainty among voters – just 55 per cent said they had definitely decided who to vote for – those who expect to vote SNP or Labour are less likely to change their minds than those intending to vote Tory. For those backing the SNP 63 per cent said they were unlikely to change their minds, with the proportion sitting at 55 per cent for Labour backers and 43 per cent for Conservative supporters.

Among those who may change their mind, a quarter (24 per cent) said they would be most likely to switch to Labour while 12 per cent said they might change to the SNP, 11 per cent to the Liberal Democrats, nine per cent to the Conservatives and eight per cent to the Greens. 

There is little to choose between Labour and the SNP when it comes to public trust in the parties to handle public services. The NHS is the most important issue for voters, with 30 per cent saying they trust Labour most to manage the health service compared with 29 per cent for the SNP. Similarly, on education, 29 per cent trust the SNP most and 28 per cent trust Labour most.

The SNP, meanwhile, is the most trusted party to stand up for Scotland’s interests – 43 per cent of those polled said they trust the party most to do this, with just 21 per cent saying they trust Labour most.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos in Scotland, said the poll shows that, with such a high proportion of voters likely to change their mind on who to support ahead of polling day, the election campaign is about “the persuadables”.

“Although it currently looks a very close race between the SNP and Labour, there are signs that Labour may be in a stronger position than the SNP to win further voters over during the campaign,” she said.

“Of those who may change their minds, Labour is likely to be the main beneficiary, with 24 per cent of this group saying they may switch to Labour, compared with 12 per cent for the SNP.

“The Conservative vote looks soft, with 55 per cent of those intending to vote Conservative saying they may change their mind – and those voters would be most likely to switch to Labour.

“Given the profile of marginal seats in Scotland, even small changes in vote share – and remember that polls have a margin of error too – can make a big difference to the final result, which means the parties still have a huge amount to play for in the remaining weeks of the campaign.”

Despite the drop-off in support for the SNP, the party’s campaign director Stewart Hosie said the poll shows the party is doing well under John Swinney’s leadership.

“This poll shows that on 4 July, every vote for the SNP will be essential to get rid of this Tory government and put Scotland's interests first,” he said.

“At the start of this campaign, some polls put the SNP 10 points behind the Labour Party, on course to win seven seats, and this poll shows we're now neck-and-neck thanks to the strong and principled leadership of John Swinney.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the poll shows that “more and more Scots are turning to Scottish Labour to deliver the change we need”.

“There are only three weeks until the poll that really matters – polling day,” she said.

“Only a vote for Scottish Labour can boot out the Tories, put Scotland at the heart of a UK Labour government and deliver the change our country needs.”

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