What do the Guardian monthly polls tell us?

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By Russell Bruce

The Guardian on Monday published their monthly poll conducted by ICM.  As Newsnet Scotland readers will be aware UK wide polls only provide a small sample of Scottish opinion.

Even the sample at UK level drops significantly once those who are not certain to vote (9%) do not know who they will vote for (23%) or refuse to answer (8%) are excluded.

By Russell Bruce

The Guardian on Monday published their monthly poll conducted by ICM.  As Newsnet Scotland readers will be aware UK wide polls only provide a small sample of Scottish opinion.

Even the sample at UK level drops significantly once those who are not certain to vote (9%) do not know who they will vote for (23%) or refuse to answer (8%) are excluded.

In order to obtain a more significant sample I have averaged the Scottish sample over the last five months from the beginning of the year.  This helps iron out what otherwise are results that appear out of context with recent actual election results.

The average Conservative support turns out at 14.4% which is close to their result in the recent local elections (13.31%).  It places the March finding of Conservative support at 22% and the latest poll finding of Conservative support at 8% in a more likely context.

In every monthly poll this year the SNP leads and as the question is about how Scottish voters would vote in a Westminster general election held at the time of each survey, the outcome is in marked contrast with actual previous UK general election results where Labour has been the largest party.

The SNP lead over the Labour party averages 9.6%.

This poll of 2012 Guardian polls puts Scotland’s political parties on the following percentages, figures in brackets are the actual percentages in the recent local government elections.

SNP 41.6%                        (32.32%)

Labour 32.0%                         (31.39%)

Con 14.4%                        (13.31%)

L/Dem 6.4%                          (6.59%)

Green 2.2%                            (2.2%)

How close the average of Guardian polls this year is to the local election results provides a degree of validation for the methodology adopted in this analysis.

The SNP were the only party to achieve a share of the vote in the local elections well below the Guardian poll of polls.

Discounting around 2% in the local elections in Scotland for minor parties, independents standing in areas that the SNP did extremely well in the 2011 Holyrood elections achieved 11.86% of the vote across Scotland in May.

It would be simplistic to conclude these voters had largely voted SNP in 2011 but it is also not an unreasonable hypothesis.

Another point to note about May’s local elections is the lower turnout, even although that has not seemed to affect the other parties comparable share of the vote.

An additional factor that has not received much comment is perhaps a reluctance on the part of the electorate to allow the SNP to sweep all before them at every election.

This degree of containment in the local elections could serve the SNP well enough come the referendum.  The electorate likes to have options, and democracy is better served even if Labour hegemony has been a past feature of Scottish politics.

The analysis of Scotland’s voting intentions in a UK general election does not tell us much about how people will vote in the Independence Referendum other than indications that voters are continuing to place their faith in the SNP as the party most likely to further their aspirations.

Indeed, thinking about the next UK general election raises some interesting constitutional issues that have had no coverage.  If we vote YES? what happens in regard to a UK general election due to be held around 8 months after the referendum?

Independence negotiations are expected to take around 12 months with a Scottish general election taking place in May 2016. Until Independence Day, and yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves here, Scotland remains entitled to representation in the UK Parliament.

In this situation it is unthinkable that England and RUK would have Scottish MPs sitting around Westminster for a full five-year term.

Their exit on Independence Day no doubt would be part of the Independence negotiations and involve a compensation settlement as they become redundant and surplus to requirement.

The implication of this is that all Scottish MPs, except SNP MPs, will be manning the No campaign barriers.

Might there be exceptions?

Maybe there will be some with an eye to a future in an Independent Scotland.

The challenge for all the parties, including the SNP, is that their support will be split in the Independence Referendum.  Most of all those who have in the past been Labour voters.

But more interesting are the continued rumblings in the Conservative party by those like Peter Fraser who knows there is no return to their past as a major political party in Scotland.

For those who believe there should be a future for a moderate right of centre party in an Independent Scotland they have a difficult decision to make –

To break away and form a pro independence centre right group in advance of the referendum, to which some credibility might be attached, or to remain staunch Unionists and go down fighting with a Damascene conversion in the event of a YES result.