Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation was followed by collapse in SNP support, says pollster | Politics | News

February 15, 2024
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The year which followed ‘s surprise resignation as Scotland’s First Minister accelerated a decline in the SNP‘s opinion poll leads, experts have said.

And pollster Mark Diffley, a former director of Ipsos Mori in Edinburgh, predicted that the party’s drop in support, coupled with the related upturn in support for Labour, would make the upcoming general election the most competitive in Scotland since 2010.

Ms Sturgeon stepped down on March 28, 2023 after more than eight years in the job, with replacing her.

Mr Diffley said: “What seems to have happened is that Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation and then, equally as impactfully, the police investigation into the party finances, have sort of accelerated the fall in support that the SNP has seen.”

There were signs of SNP support falling before Ms Sturgeon’s Bute House announcement, Mr Diffley pointed out.

“So, gone from in the polls an average of sort of mid 40s, down to an average of being in the mid 30s.”

If the current polls were borne out in an election, he said, Labour would make “significant gains” especially in the central belt of Scotland.

Anas Sarwar’s party was picking up voters from “completely different directions”, Mr Diffley said, with former Conservative and SNP supporters indicating they could switch.

He explained: “About one in five of 2019 Tory voters in Scotland, have now come to Labour.

“And about one in five SNP voters from 2019 have gone to Labour as well.

“So Labour is picking up in pretty much equal measure, disaffected Tories and disaffected SNP voters.”

Keeping such a coalition together will present a “challenge” in the later Holyrood election campaign, he said.

Professor Rob Johns of Southampton University is part of the Scottish Election Study group of academics.

He said support for a Yes vote in a referendum on Scottish independence had remained “stubbornly unwilling to fall” despite the downward trajectory for the SNP‘s polls over the last year.

Prof Johns said: “One of the features of the referendum campaign was, although it was very much an SNP thing in many ways, it clearly transcended that party.”

He added: “I think it’s reasonable to say that the SNP has lost about one in five of its Westminster vote intention, and most of that has gone to Labour.

“I think they would lose a little more to abstention in an election.”

Prof Johns said the SNP‘s decline in the polls preceded Ms Sturgeon’s resignation, something which was not surprising given how long the SNP had been in power in Holyrood.

He said: “I do think there is a bit of an element of a kind of head of steam being built up, and then finally released with the combination of (Ms Sturgeon’s) departure and the chaos of the spring.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “After 17 years of delivering for people across Scotland – during which Nicola Sturgeon was first minister for more than eight years – a poll last week showed that the SNP remains the most trusted party on the economy, health, education and cost of living while the the Tory government is down and out – and Keir Starmer‘s Labour Party is showing that the Westminster system is broken beyond repair.”



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