By a Newsnet Reporter
Outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond said today that Scottish Labour would continue to pay the price for working within the Better Together campaign, after significant opinion polls indicated the SNP in a significant lead for Scottish seats in the UK General Election.
Over many years, received wisdom has been that Scots tend to vote for UK parties at Westminster. But two polls show the SNP in big leads over Labour, as the latter grapples with the task of electing a new leader in Scotland.
An Ipsos Mori poll for STV showed SNP support at 52 per cent against Labour’s 23 percent. In theory, that would give the SNP anything up to 54 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats and leave dozens of current Labour MPs without a job.
A YouGov poll indicates that – just six weeks after the No referendum victory – 52 per cent of Scots would support independence, with 48 per cent opposing.
The interim period has witnessed Labour in-fighting in Scotland, a poor conference for leader Ed Miliband, strong polling in England for UKIP after a by-election victory, and the UK’s engagement in military strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.
“The role, hand-in-glove, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservative Party in the referendum campaign is not going to be either forgotten or forgiven for a generation in Scottish politics,” he told the BBC.
“Every single Labour personality who has been pictured in the referendum campaign in that pose – that hand-in-glove, shoulder-to-shoulder pose – will pay a heavy price for many years to come.”
His comments came amid questions about how Labour is handling its position during the deliberations of the Smith Commission. Chairman Lord Smith – the unelected peer chosen to guide Scotland to a better democracy – has a deadline of November 30 to deliver detailed proposals for greater devolution.
Yet Labour will have no Scottish party leader during that time. Sources say the leadership will be briefed regularly about the commission’s progress, although it is not clear who will be responsible for that briefing.
Labour MP Jim Murphy has been dubbed the obvious favourite for the Scottish leadership, given his high profile and the fact that the party machine has swung behind him, at least for the launch of his campaign over recent days.
Sources still believe Kezia Dugdale MSP will be pressed to stand as deputy leader, to give Murphy loyal support in Holyrood.
The STV poll revealed that two thirds wanted there to be a second Scottish independence referendum within 10 years, and half want one within five years.
The polling, coming so soon after Johann Lamont’s bitter departure from leadership, have underlined Labour’s dilemma in Scotland as the party faces electoral defeat and humiliation in Scottish seats that the party has held for generations.
Murphy launched his campaign by saying the party should be “apologising” to the people, although he was less clear about his reasons for doing so. If the polls are correct, Labour has serious problems on two fronts – apart from their diminished standing in Scotland, the polls indicate a loss of more than 30 Westminster MPs in Scotland, which would have a cataclysmic effect on Ed Miliband’s already slender challenge of getting to 10 Downing Street next May.