The SNP retain a commanding lead of Labour in the polls with two
years to go until the independence referendum IMAGE: SNP.ORG
Scottish news: SNP huge lead over Labour, poll shows
The SNP retains a staggering 15 percent lead over its nearest rivals Labour, a new poll conducted by Panelbase has shown. In terms of voting intentions for Holyrood, 30 percent of voters in Scotland would back Labour while the SNP would poll 45 percent - which is enough to form another majority government alone or with help from the Scottish Green Party.
What is incredible about the lead is that it is a mid-term opinion poll - which is normally a trying time for governments - and in the SNP's second Holyrood term. The gulf in popularity will concern Labour party strategists as their leader Johann Lamont faces a troubling time raising her profile while adopting the controversial policy shift away from universal benefits.
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In the constituency element of the poll the SNP records 45 percent with Labour on 30 percent while the Tories stand on 12 percent followed by the Lib Dems on 12 percent and the Greens on 3 percent. In the regional top up vote the SNP and Labour again command 45 and 30 percent of the vote respectively with the Tories on 12 percent, the Greens on 6 percent ahead of the Lib Dems on 4 percent and others on 3 percent.
For supporters of independence there will be some frustration that SNP popularity does not necessarily equate with support for independence. Despite this poll showing the SNP vote at 45 percent being not too far from support for independence at 37 percent in the same survey, the reality is more complex. A significant percentage of SNP voters back the party in elections because they believe they are competent managers of the devolved government. At the same time many Labour, Lib Dem and Tory voters support independence for Scotland.
For SNP strategists the focus is not about convincing voters of other parties to support independence but winning over many of its own voters to the cause of ending Westminster control. Strategists will view this constituency as open to suggestion. Likewise, Unionist parties will target their own voters who currently support independence. The Nationalists would therefore be wise to create clear saltire blue water between the SNP and the Yes Scotland campaign.
The Panelbase poll also showed that the referendum is closer than previously thought with the yes vote at 37 percent only 8 percentage points behind the no vote on 45 percent. What is all to play for is the undecideds standing at 18 percent. These voters will cross the divide in terms of party loyalty and will be the most analysed Scottish constituency by referendum time in autumn 2014.
Perhaps the most striking finding of the Panelbase poll is that if Scottish voters believe David Cameron's Tories will win the UK general election in 2015 support for a yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum shoots into a 12 point lead to a majority 52 percent ahead of no on 40 percent and undecideds on 8 percent.
This finding will not go unnoticed by SNP advisors who will be aware that between now and the referendum there will more Westminster austerity as George Osborne seeks to manage the UK's skyrocketing deficit. Crucially, while the politics of redistribution surfaces, Labour in Scotland have lurched to the right by threatening to abandon universal benefits. The political risk here is that Labour will not be viewed by Scots as a credible alternative to the Tory-led government at Westminster.
Nationalists believe they have struck it lucky. Previously it was difficult to associate independence with social issues and the economy - Johann Lamont's 'Cuts Commission' has delivered for the SNP what a generation of Alex Salmond's leadership never could - independence is now about social conscience.
In last weekend's SNP conference much was made of the SNP being the party of society but more importantly, the key message was that only through independence can austerity cuts be avoided. Why, Alex Salmond asked in his keynote speech, is Scotland being controlled by a bunch of "incompetent Lord Snooties"?
The head of Yes Scotland, and former BBC Scotland chief, Blair Jenkins reiterated this message in more measured tones over the weekend when he argued that under successive Labour and Conservative-led Westminster governments the UK has become one of the most unfair and unequal societies in the developed world.
The battle lines have been drawn. The referendum is now about what kind of society Scots want to live in.
Panelbase interviewed 972 Scots between October 9th-19th. Panelbase is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
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