John Curtice: Scottish Labour support ‘flatlining’ despite SNP finance probe

Katie Neame

John Curtice has argued that support for Scottish Labour is “pretty much flatlining” despite the police investigation into the Scottish National Party’s finances, after a poll suggested that support for Labour has fallen slightly since last month.

A poll – commissioned by strategic advisory firm True North and shared with the Holyrood Sources podcast – found that 31% of respondents said they would vote Scottish Labour if a general election was taking place now, down one percentage point on a previous poll in April.

A total of 38% of respondents said they would opt for the SNP, down two percentage points on the earlier poll, while 18% said they would vote Conservative and 9% would back the Liberal Democrats.

The police investigation into alleged financial irregularities within the SNP has resulted in the arrests of former party chief executive Peter Murrell – husband of former party leader Nicola Sturgeon – and of party treasurer Colin Beattie. Both men were subsequently released without charge.

Speaking to the podcast about the poll, Curtice said it might have been expected that the probe would have done “serious damage to the SNP’s standing in the opinion polls” but continued: “The message, at least so far as Westminster is concerned – perhaps a bit more debate about Holyrood – is that it hasn’t.”

The polling expert told listeners: “Support for the SNP is down by a couple of points, but that’s it. Equally, Labour support is down by a point. All of this is frankly potentially within the norms of sampling error. All the polling is that Labour support in the wake of the Murrell arrest is pretty much flatlining.”

On Labour’s standing in the polls, Curtice said: “Labour are incredibly lucky. Why are Labour breathing down the SNP’s neck? I mean, I would not get into the innards of what the Labour Party is or isn’t offering in terms of constitutional reform. I think the story is very simple.

“Part one of the story is ‘partygate’. Part two of the story is Liz Truss. And part three of the story is the SNP leadership contest. In other words, the Labour Party north of the border is profiting from a sequence of mistakes by their opponents.

“By sitting still and not messing up and at least having both a UK-wide and a Scottish leader who people at least regard as being respectable, if not necessarily something they have a great deal of enthusiasm about, the apples have been falling into Labour’s lap, frankly on both sides of the border.”

Responding to the polling and Curtice’s comments, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “It’s clear that Scotland is ready for change, and Labour will be the party to deliver it. Voters are sick of the sleaze and incompetence of the SNP and the Tories, but this isn’t as good as it gets.

“Labour can put an end to this cycle of division and decline and focus on the issues that really matter – from the cost-of-living crisis to the chaos in our NHS. Under Anas Sarwar’s leadership, Scottish Labour will continue to earn back the public’s trust so we can deliver the fresh start Scotland deserves.”

The polling of 1,009 Scottish residents over the age of 16 found that Sarwar had a higher favourability rating than the leaders of the SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Greens. The Scottish Labour leader’s net favourability was 30%, one percentage point higher than SNP leader Humza Yousaf.

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