An opinion poll by IPSOS Mori today shows that Alex Salmond’s SNP Government is poised to form a second term after this year’s elections to Scotland’s Holyrood parliament.
The poll of 1,000 people was taken between the 10th and 13th of February and shows that the SNP has now closed the 10 point gap with Labour, recorded as recently as November 2010 by the same polling company. In this latest poll, the SNP has overtaken their principal Holyrood rival which records 37% of the popular vote for the SNP government compared to Labour’s 36%.
In the light of this latest opinion poll, Scottish political commentators, many of whom have recently forecast certain victory for Labour at the forthcoming Scottish elections, will now be dramatically revising their predictions.
The poll shows that on the regional vote the SNP leads by an even larger margin over Iain Gray’s party, recording 35% to Labour’s 33%.
Worryingly for Labour this reversal in their party’s electoral fortunes is likely to be largely attributable to political leadership – the Scottish electorate’s familiarity with First Minister Alex Salmond – as well as their identification with his performance as Scotland’s foremost political representative.
Last weekend signs emerged that the Holyrood Labour group were struggling to demonstate unity with reports suggesting senior figures within the Labour shadow cabinet were critical of Iain Gray’s leadership. Gray, according to party sources, is easily led by “immature” influences within his team.
The Nationalists, who formed a government for the first time in their history in 2007, will be eager to present themselves as having been a competent administration. In this context SNP strategists will want to present the party as even more popular than they were when they won office four years ago.
This latest analysis boosts the SNP’s re-election prospects as polling on both the constituency and regional votes show the SNP being four points up on the party’s election winning performance in 2007.
Commenting on the poll described on the Times front page as “Salmond surges into Holyrood poll lead”, SNP Depute Leader and Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Today’s poll shows there is all to play for in Scotland’s election this May. With the SNP moving ahead of Labour and achieving a poll rating four points higher than the election results of 2007.
“As voters look toward Scotland’s election in May it is the SNP’s strong record in office, our team of recognised and trusted ministers and MSPs, and the vision we have for Scotland’s future that is winning the support of voters who want to re-elect a Scottish Government that is working for Scotland.
“In the last week the SNP has delivered on jobs with 25,000 apprenticeships, protected public services with a balanced budget, funded the fourth year of a council tax freeze saving the average household £322, and put in place the money to abolish prescription charges from April this year.
“And it is the SNP that is on the same side as people across Scotland in opposing rising fuel prices with our demand for a fuel stabiliser and the scrapping of the Tories duty rise.
“Over the next 80 days as we head toward’s Scotland’s election, the SNP will continue to govern for Scotland, to build Scotland’s economy, protect our public services, and to stand on our record of delivery and vision for Scotland’s future.”
News of the SNP’s lead in popular opinion will perturb Labour strategists who will now surely question Labour’s negative strategy as the May 5th election approaches.