Tonight has seen the publication of a new full-scale Scottish poll, conducted by Panelbase and commissioned by Wings Over Scotland. Funnily enough, I had advance warning this was coming, because one of the poll's respondents sent me some of the questions the other day, and I couldn't think of anyone else but Wings who would commission a political poll that included supplementary questions about the Old Firm and Wee Ginger Dug!
So far we only have the headline voting intention numbers for Westminster and the Holyrood constituency ballot...
Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election:
SNP 38% (n/c)
Conservatives 27% (n/c)
Labour 25% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 2% (n/c)
Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):
SNP 41% (+1)
Conservatives 27% (-1)
Labour 22% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 2% (n/c)
The eagle-eyed among you will already have spotted that the percentage changes listed above are different from the ones listed in the Wings article. That's because I'm using the standard approach of comparing with the last poll conducted by the same firm, whereas Wings states that he's comparing the Holyrood numbers to a much earlier poll from last December, and comparing the Westminster numbers to the result of the general election a year ago.
When the last Panelbase poll came out a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was a little startled that it showed Labour's Westminster vote holding up, and indeed that it showed Labour moving from third into joint second - which flatly contradicted what looked like a highly significant Labour slump in the most recent YouGov poll. The YouGov direction of travel seemed intuitively much more plausible, because it was in line with the Labour-to-Tory swing witnessed in Britain-wide polls in recent months. Tonight's poll may go some way towards solving the mystery, because it shows Labour slipping back in both Westminster and Holyrood ballots. It could be that the last Panelbase poll overstated Labour a tad due to normal sampling variation, and that what we're seeing tonight is closer to the true picture. That said, Labour are only just behind the Tories in Westminster voting intentions, whereas YouGov suggested a slightly bigger gap of four points.
Although tonight's poll and the previous one from Panelbase were only conducted two weeks apart, something very significant happened in the intervening period - ie. the SNP walkout in response to the power-grab. Superficially, then, it looks like that eye-catching moment was not an immediate game-changer, although I would argue that the real value of it was in hardening and motivating the SNP's core vote. That's something that doesn't necessarily show up in headline poll numbers, but could make a huge difference in any snap general election. The SNP's biggest problem last year was not so much voters drifting off to Labour or the Tories, but rather SNP voters just not turning out at all.
Having said that, the SNP's Holyrood vote has crept up by one point, which although not statistically significant leaves open the possibility that the power-grab issue has caused some small movement in the SNP's favour.
Rather than fretting about the lack of any major SNP bounce over the course of June, I think we'd be better off reflecting on just how admirably the SNP's vote has held up over the year - and, incredibly, it is now a whole year - since the general election. Given the hysterical post-election narrative in the media, you might well have expected some kind of anti-Nat bandwagon effect that could have led to Labour quickly reclaiming their traditional place as the dominant party of Scottish politics, at least as far as Westminster voting intentions are concerned. But they haven't even come close to doing that. There have now been twelve full-scale Scottish polls since last June, and nine of them have given the SNP a higher vote than the 37% achieved at the general election. (No poll has put the SNP lower than 36%.) If tonight's numbers are to be believed, the SNP's lead over the Tories has increased from 8 points to 11 since the election, and their lead over Labour has increased from 10 points to 13. Given the large number of ultra-marginal constituencies in Scotland, that would be more than enough to produce a significant number of SNP seat gains from the two main unionist parties.