By Dave Taylor
The latest Panelbase poll still has the SNP riding high on 45% in constituencies (44% on the regional list); Labour are 33% (31%); Conservatives 13% (12%); Lib-Dems 5% (5%); Greens are at 6% on the regional list.
According to the “Scotland Votes” calculator, that would mean SNP losing 4 constituencies and 3 list seats; Labour gaining 4 plus 1; Conservatives losing 1 list seat; Lib-Dems unchanged; Greens gaining 3 list seats - resulting in pro-independence parties having an 8 seat majority over the Better Together coalition.
However, before anyone gets excited or depressed by these numbers, remember the usual caveats.
Polls of this size have a margin of error of 3%, so the actual election might result in the SNP exceeding their landslide performance of 2011, or falling back to 2007 levels (but still the largest party).
There’s the little matter of the 2014 referendum to come before these elections. Whatever the result of that, it is likely to be a game changer in Scottish politics.
On the independence question, 34% would vote Yes (down 3% since October), 47% would vote No (+2%), with 19% undecided (+2%).
It’s worth putting this poll into its political context.
Since the Edinburgh Agreement in October, the No campaign and its allies have mounted a sustained attack on the SNP, and specifically on its Leader and Deputy Leader. Yet support for the various parties has hardly shifted, and the reported change in opinion on independence is within the range of sampling error.
A vigorous campaign which shows no positive results can only be deemed a failure.
Usefully, however, the poll gives some detail on issues which can dissuade Scots from voting Yes next year.
40% thought an independent Scotland would be financially worse off than the rest of the UK, while 37% disagreed, and 23% didn’t know.
46% thought the “North Sea oil revenues are running out”, while 37% disagreed, and 17% didn’t know. Without access to the detail of the questions, it’s difficult to know what this means, if anything. Of course, they are running out – but over what period of time?
The way a question is asked can influence the answer – as the polling gurus were keen for us to know about the proposed referendum question!
49% thought independence would cost Scotland many defence jobs, while 24% disagreed, and 27% didn’t know. 40% thought an independent Scotland would have little say over interest rates and public spending in a sterling zone, while 26% disagreed, and 34% didn’t know.
It would be interesting to know how many thought that a dependent Scotland had any say in the current sterling zone. However, alert readers will know that, even if most pollsters themselves act professionally, the questions are selected by their clients for their own purposes.
In this case the clients were the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland, make of that what you will.