SNP 54% (+8)
Conservatives 23% (-3)
Labour 12% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-3)
Greens 2% (+1)
Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:
SNP 45% (+8)
Conservatives 23% (-2)
Labour 12% (-2)
Greens 8% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-3)
Scottish voting intentions for next UK general election:
Liberal Democrats 6%
In YouGov's first Scottish subsample after Keir Starmer became Labour leader, there seemed to be some tentative signs that the SNP were taking a small hit as a result of Labour's move back towards the centre. I'm not sure whether that was merely a transitory Starmer bounce or whether it was an illusion caused by the small sample size, but either way it most certainly has not been replicated in YouGov's first full-scale Scottish poll since Starmer's election, and indeed since the coronavirus crisis started. Labour are in every bit as dire a position as they were under Corbyn, and it's the SNP that are surging forward.
Why is this happening? It's easy to assume that it must be a 'rally round the flag' effect caused by Nicola Sturgeon coming into her own as a 'war leader' during the pandemic, but in fact these figures are broadly in line with Survation and Panelbase polls (the latter commissioned by this blog) at the start of the year when it wasn't known there was going to be a coronavirus outbreak on these shores. So it's difficult to unpick how much of this is an ongoing honeymoon effect caused by the SNP's landslide victory in December's general election, and how much of it can be explained by the unique situation we now find ourselves in.
What might give us more of a clue would be figures on independence, but there's no information yet on whether this poll contained an independence question. A Panelbase poll in late March, when the epidemic was still in its relatively early stages, suggested that support for independence had slipped back (not dramatically, but a little) even as the SNP had gained further support. If that trend has continued, it might suggest that the SNP are prospering due to Ms Sturgeon's steady leadership during the crisis, and that the effect is not directly linked to views on the constitutional issue.
Even if YouGov didn't ask the independence question, it's possible there may be an independence poll very soon. To use the dread Laura Kuenssberg phrase, "I'm hearing that" a Panelbase poll is in the field, asking about independence, Holyrood voting intentions, the Alex Salmond trial, and the handling of the coronavirus crisis. It remains to be seen whether it's a private poll or one intended for publication. Panelbase's two most frequent clients for published Scottish polls are the Sunday Times and Wings Over Scotland, and the questions don't sound very Wings-like, so if the poll does see the light of day it'll probably be in the Sunday Times either this weekend or next.
Bear in mind that, although YouGov conducted a couple of other Scottish polls earlier this year, this is the first time they've asked for Holyrood voting intentions since the general election. So that means the eight-point increase in SNP support may be partly artificial, due to the post-election revision in methodology. However, the SNP's estimated vote share for Westminster is 6% higher than they actually achieved in December, which suggests there has been genuine and substantial movement in public opinion.
It should be noted that the SNP having an outright majority of the popular vote essentially destroys the specific case that was made last year in favour of a new pro-independence party to stand only on the list. The claim was that the SNP would be bound to take a hammering due to fallout from the Alex Salmond trial, and that they would therefore need 'help' to retain the pro-indy majority at Holyrood. That appears to have been proved definitively wrong. The arguments for 'gaming the system' do tend to conveniently mutate when circumstances change, so I wouldn't be totally surprised if we still haven't heard the end of the idea. However, I remain firmly of the view that a new party would have almost no chance of winning seats unless it's fronted by a very high-profile and popular person. A Salmond-led party might well enjoy success, but I do have a concern that in the long run it might further entrench the 'cultural' divide in the Yes movement. I still have hopes that Alex Salmond may return to the SNP and fight from within for a stronger push towards independence, but time will tell.