Today’s Herald has a new TNS-BMRB poll (TNS-BMRB are, I should add, the rebranded System Three, not some strange newcomers!)

Westminister voting intentions with changes since the previous TNS-BMRB Westminster poll in April are CON 18%(-1), LAB 39%(+3), LDEM 12%(+3), SNP 25%(-7).

There were also Holyrood voting intentions, but the figures are incomplete in the newspaper article. I’m told by a commenters here that the full figures are for the constituency vote, CON 13%(+1), LAB 32%(nc), LDEM 11%(nc), SNP 40%(+1). For the regional vote the figures are CON 12%(+2), LAB 29%(nc), LDEM 12%(nc), SNP 37%(-2). Changes are from a more recent TNS-BMRB poll in June which didn’t have Westminster voting intentions.

The poll shows a significant shift back towards Labour at the Westminster level, but not at Holyrood. The time periods are, of course, slightly different, but even comparing the Holyrood voting intentions with those from April there is a much smaller shift at that level. The contrast between a 14 point Labour lead in Westminster voting intentions and a 18 point SNP lead in Holyrood intentions is startling. I’m no expert on Scottish politics, but to throw out some possible explanations, perhaps it’s a positive judgement on both the Westminster and Holyrood governments, or perhaps it a squeeze on the SNP vote at Westminster as Scots move to voting Labour as an anti-Conservative vote.

37 Responses to “SNP leading for Holyrood, but dropping for Westminster”

  1. Anthony, you have a wee typo: it is actually TNS-BMRB (short for Taylor Nelson Sofres – British Market Research Bureau).

    Rather a worrying comment by Normacd over at SNP Tactical Voting blog:

    “Jeff/Stuart I was called at home about 10days ago – I missed the introduction and the caller went on to ask me two questions. First one was who I would vote for in a Holyrood election, the second question was as SNP can’t win a Westminster election who would I vote for from the three main parties.
    Obviously open to interpretation.
    Was this the poll???”

    Surely this cannot be TNS ringing this guy/gal?!? TNS are a member of the BPC and would surely never ask such a biased Westminster v.i. question?!?

    Sounds more like Labour Party telephone canvassing to me.

  2. Stuart,

    Well, they might ask something like that if they were trying to do something to predict tactical voting. However, they certainly wouldn’t ask something like that then allow it to be passed off as standard voting intention. We’ll see in the tables anyway.

    (If they *only* asked 2 questions, then it can’t be a poll, which will always require a series of demographic questions to produce useful data. In the USA, where such things happen, it’s one of the giveaways of a push-poll).

  3. Thanks Anthony. I find it impossible to believe that Normacd was polled by TNS – that is just a preposterous question, even for tactical vote enquiries.

    Anthony – “… or perhaps it a squeeze on the SNP vote at Westminster as Scots move to voting Labour as an anti-Conservative vote.”

    Your second tentative explanation sounds more likely than your first, however I find that neither answers the huge question of the vast West/Holy discrepancy very satisfactorily.

    Yes, Gordon Brown (and his party) is less unpopular in his own country than he he is either England or Wales (he seems to be especially unpopular in Wales for some unexplained reason); but I personally reckon that the imminent arrival of PM Dave at No.10 Downing St is what is scaring the bejeeses out of Scots voters.

    1979 is the closest thing we have to an analagous situation, and that was an absolutely dreadful year for the SNP. The 2010 UK GE will certainly not see a repeat of the 1979 SNP setback, but it does nevertheless hold lessons for my party: as England votes out a Labour UK govt, some Scots voters tend to turn to Labour as a “shield” from the “nasty Tories”.

    It’ll be less pronounced than 1979 (not least due to the “shield” which the Scottish Parliament provides on vast areas of domestic policy), but it’ll “dampen” prospective SNP advances.

    The only caveat to this is if Gordon Brown does not lead Labour into the next UK GE. In that scenario then all h*ll will break lose in Scottish politics: even Lanarkshire Labour MPs would be quaking in their boots!

  4. 18% is about right for Con for Westminster.

    On a good day they could reach 20%. Given that their MSP’s under Ms Goldie’s leadership are trying to be responsible players of the minority government game, they should poll near their full potential, but that won’t bring them many seats. The same can be said for the SNP.

    Cons seemingly relatively poor showing for the SP should not be taken as a sign of failure considering the range of choices available includes many LibDem incumbents in winnable positions as well as the SNP strongly competing for the Con’s former rural vote.

    At 18% for the two and a half party elections they should remember the chastening comparison with another deeply unpopular former party of government which managed 17.1%. That was the rebranded DDR communist party in the post-reunification East Germany states.

    If the Cons have a higher share of the poll for Westminster, the extra voters have to come from somewhere and the largest parties and the wasted vote “Others” are the inevitable losers.

    Notice that the very regional Libdems are steady because they are either local incumbents or challengers in winnable seats in much the same areas for Westminster as for Holyrood where the regiional vote represents the preferred party choice.

    Their tiny core vote elsewhere will still vote on party lines, but it is a wasted vote. That isn’t so where many voters are voting against the large parties and some who are most concerned about rural issues also vote LibDem.

    The higher Westminster vote for Labour and Conservative is because voters ask themselves what Stuart Dickson was asked “as SNP can’t win a Westminster election who would I vote for from the three main parties” and of course the LibDems can’t form a government by themselves either.

    Even if the poll isn’t the one that Stuart participated in, the SNP is at at a disadvantage in this, and Labour knows it. For the “Others”, the same applies with a vengeance and you are lucky if you even have a fourth or fifth placed candidate to vote for.

  5. Stuart,

    Depending on how well he remembered exactly what they said, it could be a reasonable question for exploring tactical voting. For example:

    1) How would you vote in an election tomorrow
    2) Imagine that {party you said in Q1} could not win in your constituency, how would you then vote?

    You could make something reasonable along those lines (In fact I’ve a vague recollection of Populus trying out a question somewhere along those lines at some point in the past). That said, like you I expect that’s nothing whatsover to do with TNS, and the timing is just co-incidence.

  6. So, TNS-BMRB are System Three? Does that mean we can expect System Three-like accuracy?

  7. Scotland Votes gives:
    SNP 54 (+7)
    LAB 44 (-2)
    CON 15 (-2)
    LIB 14 (-2)
    GRN 02 (NC)
    IND 00 (-1)

  8. Christian – yes. It is solely a rebranding exercise. TNS bought out BMRB, and have merged the brands. As part of it they’ve dropped their old System Three brand.

  9. Incidentally, on the subject of different levels of Lab and SNP support at Westminster and Holyrood elections, look at the chart on page 25 of this pdf:

    Labour’s support at Scottish elections since 1997, there’s a steady downwards trend, but zig-zagging up and down from Westminster to Scotland to Westminster. It is actually a very consistent pattern. (The other parties are on there too and the SNP, unsurprisingly, show the opposite pattern to Labour, but no nearly so even)

  10. Also, nice to see that the Herald has joined the bash-the-Nats-whatever-the facts brigade: “Respected Scottish polling company TNS-BMRB (formerly TNS System Three) has found a ten-point swing towards Labour in General Election ­voting ­intentions over the past six months.” Well, the last TNS Westminster poll in April had Labour on 36% and the SNP on 32%, now its 39% and 25%. In my book that’s a 5% swing, not 10%. (Could it just be an error? Once is circumstance…)

    The Herald then explains “His [Salmond’s] Government has been under heavy fire over the Glasgow Airport Rail Link cancellation, the planned clampdown on alcohol, failure to reduce class sizes and job losses such as those planned at Diageo”. So how come in Holyrood (which after all deals with transport, justice and education) the SNP is 6-7% up on their 2007 vote while Labour is exactly unchanged? (Twice is happenstance…)

    Oh, and has anyone read the Herald comment on the poll? (Three times is .…, nay, make that dozens of times …, and the Herald is usually one of the less biased papers …)

  11. As Christian implies – “So, TNS-BMRB are System Three? Does that mean we can expect System Three-like accuracy?” – TNS have an (ahem) rather “poor” record. For some reason they have ALWAYS overestimated Labour support. This goes back years and years, so must be something to do with their methodology.. They don’t Past Vote Weight, do they?

  12. John B Dick – “18% is about right for Con for Westminster. ”

    I disagree.

    That 25% for SNP Westminster v.i. is totally in line with recent sub-samples of Great Britain-wide polls, which have tended to have the SNP at approx. 27%. The Lib Dem 12% also “feels” right, for the same reason. IT IS THE LAB (39%) AND CON (18%) FIGURES THAT “FEEL” WRONG.

    I guess that the TNS fieldworkers hit areas of very weak Con support. In Scotland, Tories (and Lib Dems) tend to be found in “patches”. If you miss their “patches” then you underestimate their level of support.

    I’d guesstimate that the “true” Scottish Tory Westminster v.i. is approx 22%. Therefore “true” Lab West. v.i. approx mid-30s, not high-30s.

  13. I thought it worth having a look at the pre-election polls by them last time, the actual election result and the current poll.

    Holyrood Constituency
    Party, Apr 07 TNS, Actual 07, Now
    Lab, 34%, 32%, 32%
    SNP, 39%, 33%, 40%
    Con, 11%, 17%, 13%
    LD, 13%, 16%, 11%
    Oth, 3%, 2%, 5%

    Holyrood Region
    Party, Apr 07 TNS, Actual 07, Now
    Lab, 25%, 29%, 29%
    SNP, 36%, 31%, 37%
    Con, 11%, 14%, 12%
    LD, 13%, 11%, 12%
    Green, 6%, 4%, 4%
    Oth, 9%, 11%, 6%

    Party, Apr 05 TNS, Actual 05, Now
    Lab, 45%, 39%, 39%
    SNP, 23%, 18%, 25%
    Con, 14%, 16%, 18%
    LD, 14%, 23%, 12%
    Oth, 4%, 4%, 6%

    They seem to show a pattern of overestimating the support for the major parties, at the expense of the minor ones. I wonder if this (if true) could be caused by their continuing to use face to face polling?

  14. Anthony:

    It’s a zero sum game and the unevenness you refer to is due to the recent participation of the LibDems.

    The Cons are not really important players and if the Labour government is losing its grip the LibDems or the SNP can’t help but benefit. Lately, the SNP have appeared to be a better bet than the LibDems for the anti-Lab, anti-Con, and anti-Lab&Con voters of whom there are many, far more than those who vote positively.

    I ave seen this negativity spread from the North East over 50 years.

    The interesting aspect now is this: given that split voting is now well established for the SP, what effect does that have on the Westminster vote? Are the SNP (who don’t vote on English issues) irrelevant at Westminster, and is that why they don’t do so well in UK elections? Can they build up more an more support in the SP at the same time as losing it at Westminster?

    The rise in support for the SNP is one story. The non-rise in support for their most distinguishing policy is another.

    Compare and contrast, as the exam papers say.

    My answer is that Scottish voters increasingly do not like either of the two parties of Westminster government, or the way they behave and are organised. The SNP’s USP is pragmatic common sense but that’s not on offer at Westminster. Scots don’t want independence, and the SNP can’t persuade them, but they want competent government.

    The SNP is missing the best reason for independence: that Scotland has ready for use a better parliamentary system under which many of faults of Westminster governments of both parties are avoided.

    We can have all of our government like that, and not just a bit of it, in one of two ways. We can have it either as Donald Dewar intended, if his Home Rule Parliament is used as a model for the reform of Westminster or, if Westminster will not change, under independence.

    Even if the SNP is dumb enough not to promote that line of thinking, the electorate will work it out eventually.

    I wish I had asked Donald when I was at school with him: “What if Westminster won’t reform on the lines of your pilot project?” He could have said, as he said much later “Scotland wiil be independent when people vote for it,”

    Anything else would be to negate any claim to be a democracy, but can you see Blair or Howard or any other Westminster ex-lawyer saying these words?

    I can tell you what Donald DIDN’T say to a nationalist who put the slippery slope argument to him. The nationalist was against devolution on the grounds that the good is the enemy of the best, but that he thought it would inevitably lead to (but defer) independence.

    It’s now too late to avoid independence, but it would have been quite easy. Scots don’t want independence, they want good government.

  15. If you want a simpler explanation for simple people, here it is:

    Scotland is full of Socialists who have no more attractive option of voting for a Westminster government than NewLabour, but for the Scottish Parliament the SNP are clearly to the left of NewLabour, whereas the Scottish Conservatives aren’t consistently so.

  16. Stuart Dickson

    I agree that the LibDem feels right, and to a lesser degree the SNP. The key aspect about the Labour vote is not its level, but its lack of stability, which has conesquenses for the SNP.

    I did allow that the Cons could hope for 20% on a good day, but 22% would require a positive Conservative support which I do not detect.

    You are right, however, to cast doubt on the relilability of the polling because of regional differences. I have often argued on these threads that all four of the larger Scottish parties are,to a greater or lesser extent regional parties, in their support, their interests and their policies.

    Doubts on the reliability of the polling are one thing, doubts of the value of reflecting the effects of national swings on changes in seats are more important.

    Labour could afford to lose many thousands of votes to the SNP without losing a single seat, and the result may be that they lose less than a handful.

    If that happens, as I think it will, it is likely that objective commentators and interested parties alike will overlook the fact that the SNP will have moved from third place to within striking distance in a very large number of consituencies.

    That could mean that FPTP will work in the SNP’s favour next time round and that a relatively small further rise in SNP support (perhaps as a consequence of Conservative policies) could see them displace Labour as a majority party over-represented in seats.

    That could mean that the SNP having “lost” this election with the biggest number of votes, and fallen far short of Alex Salmond’s 20 total seats, could be in prospect of winning a majority of seats in the next one with the help of FPTP, a Conservative Government, and an imploding Labour party.

    That would revive the SNP’s pre-devolution aim of reconvening the pre-Union Scottish Parliament by the secession of the majority of Scottish MP’s unless of course we are well on the way to independence by other routes before that can happen.

  17. It is always the same for the SNP in Scotland and that is they always get squeezed.

    Labour’s vote in Scotland is little more than a protest vote against the big bad Tory’s.

    Hiss Hiss Hiss The Tory’s will take away your benefits, hissssss.

  18. One possible interpretaion of this is that the plit vote will be back Labour at Westminster and SNP for Holyrood but there are two possible events that might change things.

    The first as i have said before is the watershed argument where the supporters of a party realise the game is up before the election and either stay at home or switch.

    For a long time I have thought labours best hope in Scotland is to push hard on “Keep the Tories Out”. If that works they can get the core support and do well in Scotland.

    If however the Labour supporters fell all is lost then not only might there vote not come out but a share might switch.

    I am fairly sure the SNP will get between ten and twenty seats but it could be either and a combination of events and FPTP could mean that there is only a few percentage points on share and turn out between the two possibilities.

    The second issue is then what happens at Holyrood.

    The key issues then will be the scale and nature of Labours defeat, the nature of Browns departure and who replaces him and what the tories do in government and how Labour reacts to it.

    The best scenario for the SNP is a cameron government that appears anti Scottish and which introduces unpopular cuts and a labour party that is in disarray and ineffectual in opposing it and which appears to be focused on winning support in the South East.

    One other possibility that might emerge is that if it looks like the Tories are running away with it some of the big name Scots in Labours ranks like Darling might decide to announce that they are standing down.

    If the Labour shadow cabinet was to be stripped of tartan then that could have an impact on how scots see the Labour party.


  19. Peter:

    “between ten and twenty seats” is 100% different and a cop-out. 20 is the party leader’s target, and ten is what you will get.

    You can rely on Labour being defeated and taking it badly, especially in Scotland which has been less enthusiastically NewLabour and they will indulge themselves in criticising the leadership rather too late in the day for it to be any help.

    The Conservative government will try its best not to help the SNP by causing offence to Scots, but they do not have a one-nation Scottish Conservative at the heart of their policy presentation. They havn’t got the personnel they need, and even if they had, the advice would be ignored as it sometimes was previously.

    DC has my sympathy. I can see that if he knew that he needed to take care about the reaction in Scotland, he is smart enough to guess what advice he would get from a poltical adviser with special responsibility for Scotland. It’s when he wouldn’t know to ask for advice that he needs it most.

    Is it possible to calculate the tipping point where FPTP works to the SNP’s advantage? I think it is out of reach this time but possible (and given the factors you mention) even likely, next time.

    I doubt of the departure of prominent Scots in the cabinet will damage Labour in Scotland much, but it will stop the “Unionist” English Nationalists in the Conservative party complaining about the West Lothian Question. Some part of the Scottish Old Labour faction think they invented the party.

  20. I do wonder whether the Labour recovery in Scotland has any implications further south. If it is caused by a focusing of minds on the dawning likelihood of a Tory government and a resulting drift back to Labour it may suggest that the perception that Cameron hasn’t’closed the deal’ could be real. It will be interesting to watch for any signs of a Labour pick up in other heartland areas south of the border.

  21. Alec

    I don’t think there is any implication for emerging trends in England.

    Scotland is of course first in many things, from free personal care for the elderly, to investment in renewables and reversing the crazy privatisation of hospital cleaning and capital building, but not this.

    No, it’s just the question in Stuart Dickson’s second post, the third one on this thread, and FPTP squeeze of a party that can’t form the government.

    The equivalent in England would be UKIP voters returning to the Conservatives.

    Later, when the focus is on the individual constituency, this will be a local choice in recognition of the “wasted vote” nature of the voter’s first preference.For now it will be on a broader nationwide party basis I suspect.

    If it seems that SNP/UKIP havn’t a chance in the constituency the voter may revert to Lab/Con to ensure that voting for a no chance-minor party will let in Con/Lab.

    It’s the best thing Labour have going for them in Scotland: – “Vote for us, we’re crap, but only we can prevent a Tory government” its a winning formula.

    Don’t underrate it. Before the election we will get TV retrospectives on the end of the Thatcher years.

  22. Should be NOT let in

  23. One of the things I personally found interesting in the Holyrood results of the poll (and I think it is the Holyrood results that are really important even though the GE is more proximate) is that the SNP appears to be taking support equally from all the other parties. Look at the figures. Every one down 2%. Admittedly within the margin of error (I assume) but that kind of consistency is interesting.

  24. this company normally underestimates the tory vote by 6% from historic polling to it is for the anti conservative herald.

    so a very good result for the conservatives.

  25. This is a crucial element posted by Stuart above:

    “I guess that the TNS fieldworkers hit areas of very weak Con support. In Scotland, Tories (and Lib Dems) tend to be found in “patches”. If you miss their “patches” then you underestimate their level of support.”

    All the evidence from Council, Holyrood, and Euro elections confirms Stuart’s point that Con and LibDem support in Scotland is clustered rather than evenly but thinly spread. Generally, those clusters are either not large enough, or too dispersed, to result in many seats on FPTP basis, but the Regional list at Holyrood and advent of multi-member STV for Council has revealed that neither party is dead or irrelevant. Over time this will allow both parties to rebuild their strength – particularly so for Cons – as can be seen in their consistent showing in a range of 18-22% for Westminster as opposed to the 13-16% which applied for most of the decade up to 2007.

    The cluster aspect also has implications for Westminster since it means that Cons could reach critical mass in some constituencies well before their national share would suggest gains. [After all, the LD share of seats is already ahead of the number their share would justify.]

    It should not be assumed that if the national Lab/Con swing is x%, that Con gains are limited to seats with majorities below 2x.

    Where both Con and LD are disadvantaged is that many of their clusters are in the same places, and in areas where Labour are already weak. This actually dampens the possible benefit to either from tactical voting. Otherwise, one could well imagine co-operation between these two parties inflicting real pain on Labour when they slip below the critical 40% level in any area.

    What price a Con-LD coalition after the 2015 Holyrood elections ?

  26. As an adjunct to my last post, I sometimes wonder if Brown ever thinks through the policies he announces in his quest for immediate headlines.

    If the AV system he suggested were adopted for Westminster, he could find Labour crucified in Scotland where Con, LD and SNP (not to mention sundry others) would compete ferociously for second place in many seats, knowing that this could then deliver them victory over the Labour incumbent on transfers.

  27. Do they have a breakdown by social class for this survey? I cannot understand the whole “Scotland on benefits, so vote Labour” thesis. I am unconvinced by it. On the assumption that the proportion of benefit claimants are in line with those who actually vote, you are talking about 20-30% of the electorate (higher in some constituency, lower in others).

    Indeed, the Conservatives used to be the party of Scotland. If you go back a few decades the old Scottish Conservative Party was popular. Central Tory HQ somewhat ruined that, they have never really made a comback since (so much for local politics). It would be interesting to see where these voters went. I suspect they actually went Liberal. Looking at the some constituencies in Edinburgh and the North of Scotland, (very) old Conservative strongholds (and some of the most affluent areas in UK outside the South East) the Tories are in third.

  28. The Labour party in Scotland used to be dominated by class warriors with a sense of grievance, many of whom were of recent Irish decent, mostly Catholics.

    If you saw yourself as respectable middle class or non-manual, you voted out of a sense of duty. Labour was not for you, and you would not always be welcome in Labour circles. Socially you would stand out.

    The Conservative party was a coalition of Free Marketeers, English Nationalists, Libertarians, Orange Unionists and One Nation Conservatives.

    In Harold Macmillan’s day, no group dominated, and decent responsible Edinburgh burghers whose attitude to race was informed by Presbyterian missionaries in Aftica could vote for the same party as did members of the Primrose League.

    The Conservative party was taken over by the Free Market fundamentalists and English Nationalists in the Thatcher years and ceased to speak for those who were the core of the Scottish party. They were repelled by greed and self interest posturing as political principle because it conflicted with their Christian values and upbringing.

    There is a place in Scottish politics for a party on the economic right. Rebranding, together with either Independence or Bavarianisation is a prerequisite for it to flourish. It could have been in government in coalition even now if action had been taken earlier.

    Scottish Nationalism is not your enemy. The media’s obsessions with English/British Nationalism (Immigration, Iraq, Trident, the EU) and Free marketeers faith driven policies (“Choice” in English Schools) do not help you when Scotlands needs on rural issues are ignored. (Fish, Post Offices, and just having a nearby school at all).

    All the Scottish parties are regional parties. Where the Conservatives are third, Labour will be fourth. The SNP and LibDems are competing for the rural vote on their policy initiatives while the other two give the impression that there is no rural issue of importance other than hunting with dogs. Unfair perhaps, but the focus on presentation marginalises the opportunity to learn from the grassroots.

  29. Paul H-J

    2015? An opportunistic Conservative AND UNIONIST Party in UK government does a deal with the SNP to facilitate independence in order to:

    1 Permanently remove the Scottish Labour MP lobby fodder voting on English matters ensuring long-term Conservative government in England
    2 Freeing Scottish Conservatives from the embarassment of association with the English party and allowing them to rebrand
    3 Coalition with the SNP after independence, with a possibility of detatching the SNP economic right
    4 Answering the West Lothian Question and getting rid of Cabinet members who determine policy in England where they have no constituents.
    5 cutting off finance to Scottish Labour

  30. I think this highlights how dependent the SNP are on the policies of other parties, rather than their own. SNP tend to try and define themselves by what they’re not… a fig leaf for the fact that they are essentially not that different from Labour or LDP, once the uninspiring independence policy is untangled from the rest of it and kicked into touch… they are exposed as a very splittable organisation… perhaps along these lines:
    http:// www.
    http:// www
    http:// www.

    If the SNP means more “tiny country flirtation” with embarrasing moguls like McTrump, then they hardly make an attractive alternative to Labour, do they.

  31. You need a long spoon to sup with mega business and neither of the big two parties can claim not to have contacts with embarrasing moguls.

    Scots vote for the SNP, not for their “tiny country flirtation” if you mean their independence policy but despite it as the polling shows.

    What they want is a pragmatic and government with commonsense policies that will work in a country with rural and sparsity issues. They do not want policies developed from faith-based party dogma by metropolitan fundmentalists who know nothing, and understand nothing, of life North of Watford.

    Governments of both parties have ignored important environmental and economic issues such as EU fishing regulations, while they have tried to impose market solutions in the absence of a market, wasting resources and misdirecting effort, and yes, even killing a few people.

    The SNP eschew preaching some economic credo attempting to convert the unbeliever (as Teresa May did to-day) and just get on with practical solutions. That they do this is no doubt because they wish to keep onside nationalists of both right and left.

    It is however a winning formula.

    Do you think the SNP romantics who want independence for cultural/historical reasons would care if the party fragmented or even disappeared after independence?

    We do not need independence. We need a better parliamentary system and we have that already waiting to be used. It was intended to be the model for Westminster, but the chance of that has passed.

  32. John,

    Not sure quite whose propaganda you have been swallowing in this comment:

    “They do not want policies developed from faith-based party dogma by metropolitan fundmentalists who know nothing, and understand nothing, of life North of Watford.”

    Given the proclivity of Scots to vote for a densely populated field of socialist parties, wherein lies the dogma ? ..and where the misplaced faith ?

    For the record, as I discovered on Sunday when a drove south into Watford, I live north of Watford. I can assure you that my party understands the needs of rural communities better than most – including in particular the Green party, which does demonstrate dogmatic faith in its own righteousness without regard to the pragmatic needs of the people.

    As to SNP romantics….I very much doubt you will mind many MSPs, still less members of the Scottish Executive, among their number.

    But, credit where it is due. I do agree that Scotland, like not just the rest of the UK but the whole of Europe – nay the world – needs better government, not independance.

  33. What is startling is that far from being a ‘centre’ party, the Conservatives seem to constitute a ‘extreme party’ in Scotland, but not in an economic context – a political one.

    If you see the breakdown of the Conservative voters, they seem the opposite of the SNP, their base – by and large – seem to constitute a minority in Scotland (doubting devolution, against any more devolution, wanted MacAskill to resign, etc). Indeed, Tory voters in Scotland seem more ‘extreme’ than the party itself (which welcomes more devolution).

    I am unsure there will be any Tory ‘fightback’ in the forseeable future, I think that is hopeful thinking for some Tory thinkers, but I am sure they can paint a prettier picture.

    It seems though, that unlike England, where the Tories are seen – to a certain degree – somewhat less radical. Their voters in Scotland seem to diverge from mainstream Scottish opinion – more so than any other party.

  34. The far left may be crowded, but they have insignificant support even in total because they are fundamentalists. I assume you don’t classify NewLabour as Socialists. If you do, then that is where our opinions differ.

    The Greens are broadening their base only because the issues they relate to are becoming more important. It’s not due to their better leadership, organisation or funding though devolution has helped. They too have their dogmatists and when that was ALL they had they were nowhere.

    It isn’t surprising. The oldest party is the Conservatives, as they are proud to say. They represented the interests of the landowner and indeed they were landowners. Industrialisation brought wealth to entrepreneurs but not necessarily land and the Liberals emerged to represent them and the extention of the franchise made possible the rise of the Labour party. Now the important issues are the environmental ones and in the medium term either the Green brand will grow or be taken over by a competitor.

    Scotland has other divisions, Red Clydeside, Enlightenment Edinburgh and the Picts, and the SNP is till now has been strong only in the highlands.

    You are right about the Braveheart tendency. They are nowhere near the top of the party. Several, if not all, ministers are working very hard to acheive as much popular change as they can, as economically as they can and as quickly as they can for they realise that if they lose momentum they may lose the chance of independence for a generation.

    I’m impressed by what they have acheived, but I know from my own experience how sucess encourages you to attempt further success by working still harder.

    There are also a handful of kilted romantic rightwingers who may have differences with leftish ministers, but they are happy to keep quiet about that till independence is secured. If these ministers are popular, that’s enough.

    The SNP has had its internal squabbles in the past, but they are as surprised at their recent progress as anyone else and can’t believe their luck. That makes them try harder, because there is a real possibility of success for the first, and perhaps the last and only, time.

    The rise in support for the SNP is not due to an increasing sense of national destiny. It is because the Westminster parliament is a failed institution in dozens of ways and an alternative is avalable if only to Scots.

    Historically, failed political systems have usually had far worse outcomes than independence under a consensus-seeking pragmatic party working in a new and already available designed-for-purpose building and parliamentary culture.

    I have the Ancient Mariner problem.

    As I have often said on these pages, half a century ago the Father of the Nation shared with me his vision for a Home Rule Parliament and the reform of Westminster. To his disappointment, I rejected his solution ( though I did not have one of my own).


    If you want to know about better government, you can see for yourself if you type “Scottish Parliament” into your search engine and take it from there.

  35. Beans

    There is a Tory right (because they have nowhere else to go) the once large centre have mostly died off but we have had MSP spokesmen to the left of NewLabour.

    In the same week we had a Socialist welcoming something in the private sector, the parliament’s best known republican concerned about removing historic rights of the crown and a former Conservative minister warning about the dangers of inappropriate privatisation.

    I was disappointed by the Conservatives choice of an impractical amendment supported by a weak arrgument on the Megrahi issue. They could easily have taken the line of not opposing what was effectively a judicial decision. Each session of the parliament has exihbited more bad behaviour in the PMQ manner than the last and I attribute that to the departure of almost all the MSP’s who left Westminster by choice

    Significantly, I think, Malcolm Chisholm, the only Labour MSP to support MacAskill is the only one remaining from Labour, and he was very close to Donald Dewar.

  36. It doesn’t surprise me if the SNP went very well in Scotland did markedly differently for Westminster.

    Why? In a federal system (which having a separate Parliament for Scotland is (even if the rest of the UK is not equally treated) such as Australia it is VERY hard for one party to win at the federal parliament and to win the state parliaments. Basically it’s impossible for one party to have the capital and all the states. Why?

    Simple. People are cynical and like to keep politicians ‘honest’–if you are in power in one of the parliaments an awful lot of people will vote against you for the other parliament. Why? Most people are not mindless ‘my party right or wrong’–this is shown by how few people are members of political parties.

    So if you are Joe McSporran it’s very easy to say – basically Labour for Westminster and to keep them honest SNP for the Scottish parliament.

    It’s not an idea which has been explored much in the UK because it is only since the SNP won last time that real ‘federal’ comparative political systems are worth exploring. I think this poll suggests such an attitude as I describe.

    I think it is unrealistic to expect ‘one party’ right or wrong poll support; consider the UKIP in the EU and the nil votes for Westminster.

  37. Habitual split voting for the Scottish Parliament must have weakened party loyalty.

    There are many ways you might want to do it. To elect Greens or Socialists the only hope is the regional vote, but you could vote Socialist on the list and for the Labour Constituency candidate. You could vote Green on the list (they don’t stand in the constituency) and LibDem or SNP to keep out Con or Lab.