SNP gain strong lead over Labour

Salmond set for Holyrood top job?
Salmond set for Holyrood top job?

The SNP have achieved a ten point lead over Labour ahead of the upcoming Scottish election.

With a lead in both constituency and regional polls, SNP leader Alex Salmond could be appointed first minister of the Scottish parliament after May 3rd.

The Populus poll, commissioned by the Times, puts the nationalists comfortably ahead of the incumbent Labour executive. With support for Mr Salmond and Scottish independence significantly lower, the results could mark a protest vote against Tony Blair and the Labour government in Westminster.

Transferred into seats, the poll gives the SNP 50 seats, Labour 43, 18 for the Liberal Democrats, 17 for the Conservatives and one Green MSP.

With Alex Salmond as first minister the SNP could either risk governing as a minority executive or forming a coalition with the Lib Dems.

In the constituency vote, 38 per cent of those polled favoured the SNP, ten points ahead of Labour on 28 per cent. The Lib Dems received 15 per cent and the Conservatives 14 per cent.

On the regional vote the SNP received 35 per cent backing compared to Labour's 30 per cent. Both the Lib Dems and Tories polled 14 per cent.

However, while David Cameron may be gaining significantly over Gordon Brown, Mr Salmond is not wining the personality battle over Labour's Jack McConnell. Both leaders polled 27 per cent, followed by Annabel Goldie for the Conservatives with ten per cent and Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen with five per cent.

Moreover, support for Scottish independence, still a key ambition of the SNP, is less marked at 27 per cent. More than half of those polled support the union but would like more power for Holyrood while 12 per cent said the current arrangement works well.

The SNP claim the poll shows Labour's negative election campaign is not attracting voters. The nationalists earlier accused Labour of using "bone chilling" language in an attempt to warn voters away from Scottish independence.

Nevertheless, Labour's Scottish health minister Andy Kerr said the party is confident it can gain on the SNP.

He said: "Over the coming weeks we will focus on the £11bn black hole at the heart of the SNP's spending plans and the £5,000 tax hike that they will impose on Scottish families every year.

"Tax will be the dividing line of this election. You don't get the SNP without independence - and you don't get independence without a cost."

In prime minister's questions today, Tony Blair warned Scots there would be a "huge economic risk" to taking Scotland out of the UK.

A Labour government in Westminster had delivered Scotland's strongest ever economy, Mr Blair claimed, with 200,000 extra jobs and Scottish unemployment below the UK average.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.