Labour poll lead narrowing as SNP closes in

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The Labour party’s large lead over the SNP in recent opinion polls is melting away according to a new opinion poll out this weekend.

The poll, conducted by Progressive Scottish Opinion, and based on those certain to vote for a specific party, shows that a swing of only 3% seperates the political adversaries as they head into their campaigns for the election on May 5.  If the election were held today 43% of respondents would vote Labour in the constituency ballot, ahead of 37% for the SNP. Scotland’s smaller parties appear to be being squeezed as the two giants square up; The Conservates in Scotland record 11% in the poll and the LibDems now appear unable to form a coalition with only 5% just ahead of the Scottish Socialists on 2% and the Greens on 1%.

In the regional or list vote, Labour polled 44%, with the SNP on 37%, Conservatives 11%, Liberal Democrats 4%, Green Party 2% and the Scottish Socialists 1%.

Labour strategists will be privately concerned at how their vote is starting to hemorrhage so far in advance of the campaign.  In most recent polls Labour have enjoyed large leads. The concern for the leader of their Holyrood group of MSPs Iain Gray is that as elections draw closer the incumbent party often see voters return as the manifesto and personalities of the likely alternative government are scrutinised during the campaign.

Although still slightly behind Labour, SNP leader Alex Salmond will see cause for encouragement from the poll as his party heads home from its Spring Conference in Glasgow.  The party tends to do less well when the media frames politics in the context of UK issues and so as the focus during the campaign will be mostly on Scottish issues the party will be confident in picking up undecided voters.  Nationalist strategists will also calculate that Salmond’s profile will be a distinct advantage during the campaign given his rival Iain Gray suffers from a lack of recognition with the Scottish electorate.

Clearly the strongest and slickest campaign team stands the best chance of winning the election.  In this context Labour activists will be dismayed that their Holyrood leaders have had to scrap their manifesto as it was uncosted and needed completely rewritten.  This is an astonishing situation for the party and one which the SNP will seek to exploit. SNP Election campaign organiser said: “Labour, by contrast, are in policy disarray, with their Council Tax gymnastics just the latest episode.”

Responding to the survey elections commentator Prof Curtice of Strathclyde University said: “If these figures are correct then Labour, which has positioned itself as the party against the cuts, will be just short of a majority at Holyrood.

“The apparent collapse in support for the Lib Dems means we are unlikely to see a coalition.”