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by Margaret Taylor
01 March 2024
SNP leads Labour as energy policy emerges as key general election battleground

The poll was carried out by Survation for Quantum Communications | Alamy

SNP leads Labour as energy policy emerges as key general election battleground

The SNP is pulling ahead of Labour in Westminster voting intentions, with voters in the north east showing a strong preference for the former while those in the west of Scotland appear to favour the latter.

According  to a poll carried out by Survation on behalf of PR agency Quantum Communications, 38 per cent of the Scottish electorate would vote SNP if a general election was called tomorrow, up from 36 per cent in January, while 33 per cent would vote Labour, down from 34 per cent.

In the north-east sub-section of the poll, where the political parties are currently battling it out over their stance on the future of oil and gas, the SNP is on 47 per cent while Labour is on 25 per cent and the Conservatives, who are gathering for their Scottish conference in Aberdeen today, are trailing on 16 per cent.

In contrast, in west Scotland, Labour is ahead on 37 per cent, with the nationalists on 31 per cent and the Conservatives on 19 per cent.

The poll, which surveyed 1,043 adults between February 14 and 20, found that 15 per cent of the overall Scottish electorate now intend to vote Tory, down from 16 per cent in January and representing the lowest level recorded for the party since September 2022, when Liz Truss was prime minister.

Quantum Communications co-chief executive Alan Roden, who is a former communications director with Scottish Labour, said the result shows that the general election “appears to be a two-horse race” between the SNP and Labour in Scotland.

“The SNP will be buoyed by the findings, with the party focused on appealing to voters in the north east and defending [SNP Westminster leader] Stephen Flynn’s Aberdeen seat,” he said.

“But Labour’s lead in parts of the central belt is significant, suggesting there won’t be a uniform swing across Scotland – and many SNP seats in densely populated urban areas are vulnerable.

“Labour’s campaign for a windfall tax on the profits of energy giants is likely to play particularly well in these former heartlands.

“[Labour leader] Keir Starmer’s huge UK poll lead will also inevitably narrow as the election nears, so Scotland could prove to be a decisive battleground.”

Despite the poll result, a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives remained upbeat about the party’s chances at the election, which is expected to be held later this year.

“Voters know that in swathes of seats across Scotland only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the scandal-ridden SNP and move the focus from their independence obsession to people’s real priorities, like economic growth and Scotland’s ailing public services,” they said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will address the Scottish party’s conference in Aberdeen today, adopted a similarly positive tone.

“Scotland has an abundance of ingenuity, talent and hard-working people, people who are at the core of our United Kingdom’s success,” he said.

“That is why my government remains steadfast in its support of the 200,000 high quality UK jobs that depend on our North Sea oil, gas and energy sector – with nearly half of those jobs in Scotland alone.

“I will continue to back the industry so we can build a brighter, greener future for Scotland. We have a plan to transition to net zero and my government will always take the right long-term decisions to ensure that we do so in a pragmatic and proportionate way, that doesn’t burden hardworking Scottish families.”

Adam Morris, the former head of media for the Scottish Conservatives, said the poll shows the party is being negatively impacted by what is happening with the party in England, where former deputy party chairman Lee Anderson had the whip withdrawn this week after saying that London mayor Sadiq Khan is controlled by “Islamists”.

The comment, for which Anderson has refused to apologise, has been widely condemned as Islamophobic.

“While there’s no doubt the Scottish Conservatives are being dragged down by the party’s chaos in England, they could still have a strong showing north of the border,” said Morris.

“They have a good presence in some areas, especially the north-east, and a number of strong candidates will be in with a good shout of retaining or winning their seat.

“It’s not easy to keep their distance from the wider UK party, but it also represents their best chance of increasing the number of Scottish Conservative MPs going back down to Westminster.”

Damian Lyons Lowe, chief executive of Survation, said: “Labour’s opinion polling success since the 2019 general election means the SNP faces off against Labour in scores of now-marginal seats as their key challenger.

“While this poll shows a modest lead for the SNP over Labour, this is the largest SNP lead over Labour we have recorded since May 2023.

“Were these results to be replicated at a general election, the SNP would remain the largest party in Scotland in terms of seats though Labour would see a number of gains in their former areas of strength."

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