by Henry Hill
Friday, 12
March 2021
Spotted
08:30

The tides are turning for the once untouchable SNP

New polling suggests the Salmond trial has damaged the party's reputation
by Henry Hill
Can you see it? There goes our lead. Credit: Getty

For months, it has seemed as if the SNP were politically untouchable. No matter how many bad news stories came and went — and they were legion — there was no sign that it was registering with the Scottish electorate.

Yet new polling suggests the Scottish Government’s gross mishandling of the allegations against Alex Salmond, and its ham-fisted and increasingly obvious attempts to cover it up, may have been a bridge too far.

If the figures from the Scotsman are accurate, the Nationalists are no longer on track to win a second, supposedly-impossible overall majority at Holyrood in the upcoming elections.

On paper they would still come incredibly close, picking up an extra MSP and falling short by only one seat. But in 2016 their eventual result under-performed their polling, so things could be more serious than they initially appear.

It isn’t all good news for unionists. The Conservatives would lose one seat and Labour four, with the beneficiaries being the pro-independence Scottish Greens — resulting in a larger separatist caucus overall.

(Although, under the vagaries of First Past the Post we can’t rule out a Labour revival helping to return Tory MSPs by taking votes from the Nationalists.)

But it would still help Boris Johnson’s bid to refuse a second referendum if it looked as if the wind were going out of Nicola Sturgeon’s sails — especially with other polling for the Times finding voters more resistant to the idea too.

A larger Green caucus may also change the dynamic in the Scottish Parliament. To date they have been viewed as a pliable pool of extra votes for the Nationalists, but if they do return a record ten MSPs the pressure will be on to carve out a more distinctive role for themselves.

But another set of figures from the Scotsman are even more interesting: favourability ratings for both Boris Johnson and the British Government, whilst still negative, are both up by 14 points apiece.

If you’ve been following the commentators, this is a baffling result. The Prime Minister has been described as a ‘recruiting sergeant’ for the separatists. His more muscular constitutional strategy, embodied in the UK Internal Market Act and now the Union Connectivity Review, has been denounced in similar terms.

Yet there was never much evidence of a public backlash against the Government’s new power to spend extra money in Scotland and Wales, and this new data only reinforces the case that voters are not nearly as averse to a larger role for the British state as the devocrats would have us believe.

Of course, both Johnson’s and his Government’s scores are still negative. But with the Treasury now primed to start putting hundreds of millions of pounds into UK-funded projects, these results suggest there is real scope for actually winning voters back to British governance — a sea change from the old strategy of hacking away at the Union and hoping for the best.

Ministers will want to be very careful not to do anything to revive the SNP’s fortunes ahead of the elections. But come May 7th, the next round in the fight for the United Kingdom will be on.

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Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
1 year ago

Amazing how far you can get in Scottish politics by attacking the English… Also amazing that this is never called out for the overt racism that it clearly is.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

About 18 months ago the Welsh Assembly discussed the possibility of banning English people from buying second homes in Wales – a hate crime and they did not pursue the point.
As English people own most of the second homes, they decided last week to double the Council Tax on all second homes in Wales. Not a hate crime.
This is baffling because the North Wales coast gets almost all of its revenue from tourism. But as you say:
Amazing how far you can get in Scottish politics by attacking the English

Christopher Kendrick
Christopher Kendrick
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Second homes that are only lived in a few weeks a year do not contribute anything much to the local economy. I have a house in Wales that is let to holiday visitors for 8 months a (normal) year and contributes hugely as big families visit tourist sites and businesses, eat out at local pubs and spend in nearby shops. Pembrokeshire County Council recognises this and charge no council tax (I pay for rubbish collection separately) It is a watermill that had been derelict for over 50 years, no one local had renovated it, and now it is the centrepiece of the small village, so I cannot be said to be taking away housing from local people either (before someone asks!)

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Surely now it is suitable for local people live in ?

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
1 year ago

But don’t many people let out their second homes to holiday makers?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Mark Drakeford has just informed us that from 27th March we can go anywhere in Wales but English people are not allowed to come into Wales. Is that a hate crime?
(He also said that from tomorrow we could visit another house and spend time with people in their garden. But we are not allowed to go into the house. If the garden is at the back of the property we are allowed to walk through the house to get there but we mustn’t stop. If we want to go to the toilet we can do so but we must not go to the house with the prior intention of going to the toilet.)

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

That is the case because English law bans people travelling from England into Wales.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Xenophobia yes. Chauvinism yes. Bigotry yes. But racism? Can we avoid this over-used word?

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

In this case, no.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The Welsh Stole ”Two tries’V England and now want to Steal Stonehenge..time for celtic mediocrities like Drakeford ( Curfew All men after 6pm) Not a hate Crime!

Paul Hale
Paul Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

The Welsh didn’t steal the two tries. They were gifted them by a corrupt French Brexit ref.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

‘If you’ve been following the commentators, this is a baffling result’.
Not really. The commentators, along with most ‘experts’, are invariably wrong. And I think this polling shows us once again that it always takes some time for the reality to seep into the minds of most people. Those people are busy with their jobs and families etc. As such, they are not constantly registering new facts and information like some of us, or separating the signal from the noise in real time.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
1 year ago

If you’ve been following the commentators, this is a baffling result. The Prime Minister has been described as a ‘recruiting sergeant’ for the separatists. His more muscular constitutional strategy, embodied in the UK Internal Market Act and now the Union Connectivity Review, has been denounced in similar terms.

This “Scots hate Boris” stuff is beyond pathetic and never comes with evidence. So sick of it.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I actually think its more along the lines of being concerned to allow it out in public that you’re not a rabid SNP supporter.

Paul Hale
Paul Hale
1 year ago

It may be true that some Scots are more afraid of their fellow Scots than of the English. In a similar vein,the most Islamophobic people I’ve personally come across are Moslems afraid of the holier-than-thou extremist fringe in their religion.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago

Surely hating Boris is a hate crime?

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago

Or is it okay to hate some people but not others?

Steve Wesley
Steve Wesley
1 year ago

Since when did the pollsters start getting it right? It would be good if they were, but recent examples suggest not.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Wesley

Indeed, Pollsters are pretty good at counting up peoples responses to any given question (however subjectively worded).
They are certainly pretty useless at using that information to make accurate predictions.
Additionally, most of the polling organisations customers want to see a pre-ordained conclusion returned – rather than an accurate prediction.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yup – its a bit like weather forecasters (although they have improved) when only the Californian ones got it right.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

This suggests a (much overdue) turning away from the SNP rather than from the idea of independence per se – as the writer says, the number of MSPs supporting independence would grow if these polls are correct. But why is the green party in Scotland separatist? Is there anything inherent in the green philosophy that demands this? I get the Schumacher Small is Beautiful argument, but that hardly applies when the secessionists are yearning for incorporation in a far bigger entity, the EU. So why is it that to be green in Scotland is to be nationalist? It isn’t so in England – as far as I’m aware, Caroline Lucas hasn’t been cosying up to Ukip or EDL.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The Green Party in Wales is also separatist. I am guessing that they think they would have more clout in a small group.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I think sometimes parties like this can end up taking a position because it’s demanded of them politically. When asked by some pundit they can’t just say “oh yeah, we re indifferent to that.”
But in general my observation has been that Green parties in many countries, at this juncture in time, are very inclined to use smaller political regions or entities as a tool to make claims for their other policies, particularly in relation to land use. So they can claim, in some policy position, say about fishing, that they are representing the interests or views of the Scottish people who are defenders of their lands, rather than just make the argument about fishing. Separatism becomes the shorthand for standing up for Scottish people or Welsh people or whatever.
It’s not really the “Small Is Beautiful” approach though because they typically gloss over the fact that not all of members of those groups are even nationalists or separatists, and they likely have all kinds of views about fishing rights. It’s just optics.

David Hughes
David Hughes
1 year ago

Greens these days are typically militant vegans. They would shut down the Scottish fishing industry if they could, along with salmon-farming and the rearing of sheep and cattle. That list would quite effectively destroy rural life in the Highlands & Islands. The other all-consuming obsession of the Greens – climate change – would lead them to also close down the North Sea oil and gas industry, given the chance. Given that the SNP has always seen the North Sea as Scotland’s passport to prosperity, and at the same time also claims to support the rural economy, It’s a mystery to me why they see the Greens as allies.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Hughes
Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Greens in Scotland are only bothered with independence and pronouns.
That’s it.

Paul Hale
Paul Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I don’t know if that’s true but I like the way you put it.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

because Greens are Globalists and Think Bill Gates 24 Porsches &other sports Car, 2 Private Jets and Caroline Lucas Own Trips to uS on Airlines Are ”Green” but Us ordinary folk cause Global Warming..Garbage ..

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

It was about time that Unherd spoke about Scotland too. There is plenty of scope of “never heard of/unheard/unherd” things as the press here is rather ineffective (and the politicians are even worse) and the herd (as in pro independence) mentality is prevalent, at least in the news.
I don’t know whether it would be worse to be branded a unionist or a transphobe (probably the words are seen as synonyms by many up here), but for sure we need new voices to be heard, as we are limited to the never ending party political broadcasts.
Bottom line, the SNP gets away with anything because nobody, including your good selves, pays any attention. Thank goodness the Spectator has come to the rescue!

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago

Mel Gibson has so much to answer for on so many levels. Him and all those Scottish New Labour mps. What a mess.

Pierre Pendre
Pierre Pendre
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

Awful film. One of the great advantages of Netflix is that you can clock out of rubbish.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Pierre Pendre

“Rob Roy” (1995) with Liam Neeson and Tim Roth far better.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

I read somewhere recently that Robert Bruce was Norman French and was francophone, so he should have been portrayed in the film with a French accent

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Wood

French by culture, language and outlook, although the Bruce’s had been in ‘Jockland’ for about two centuries.

He was probably bilingual and spoke at least one native tongue.

In fact all the ‘contestants’ for the Scotch Throne, Balliol, Comyn, Plantagenet, and eventually Fitz Allan had a similar background, ie : not a true Jock among them! They were all culturally French.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Pierre Pendre
Pierre Pendre
1 year ago

The SNP don’t need an overall majority to prevail impregnably so long as the Greens support them.
I see nothing positive in polls that show continued strong support for an SNP government which quite apart from its management failures and authoritarian zeal is corrupt.
These negatives on their own would discredit any normal government which has already been in power for 14 years.
The fantasies of independence outweigh all the obsolete political baggage the SNP carries.
If Sturgeon and her husband, who is CEO of the SNP, survive the Salmond scandal, their frightening political hegemony means they could be unbeatable for years to come with this electorate.
Johnson was right to deny the Nats another referendum before the Scottish elections. If the SNP and the Greens win them, he might be forced to rethink his stance; is it worth the candle to stay in bed with an implacable foe who hates you for being English?
There are no bromides – more powers for the Scottish parliament (read Sturgeon and Mullen) or a federal UK – that will keep the SNP from picking fights with London.
And if a majority of Scots insist on leaving, they should not be stopped.

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
1 year ago

Strange how Nationalism is in favour if it’s Scotland or Wales, but not when it’s English, it’s about time the English told them to “put up or shut up”

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

From an English point of view the sooner Scotland is jettisoned the better.
We have no further need of it, nor for that matter of Northern Ireland.
In Cromwell’s words “For God’s sake go!”

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
1 year ago

I agree, but of course on the basis that once they go they will receive zero financial support from England. They would be bankrupt within 10 years, but that would be entirely their problem, and I would happily leave them to drown in their own debts.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew McGee

I totally agree.
Frankly after this current C-19 fiasco, we will not be able to afford either ‘them‘, or indeed Northern Ireland .

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Not really relevant:
Mark Drakeford has just told us that, from tomorrow, four people from two households can meet in the garden but not in the house. If the garden is in the back of the property, they can walk through the house to get there but they must go straight through without stopping.
They are allowed to go into the house to use the toilet but they must not go to the house with the prior idea of going to the toilet.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So you have a 30 sec window to make sure you get the urge to go.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I have just read that in Scotland the loo advice is pretty much identical 😉

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Am I allowed to take a dump in a neighbour’s garden? Or pi ss over the garden wall? Please tell me Mr Drakeford, I can’t hold on much longer!

Will Liddle
Will Liddle
1 year ago

As always with upset polls, the psychological impact of polling on voting choices should be kept in mind: they can further depress turnout or encourage it as people feel that a hitherto close-to-certain outcome is now under threat.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

I honestly cannot fathom for the life of me why Scots would want yet another divisive, family destroying, all-encompassing referendum after the last few years of chaos. If you think Brexit has been difficult imagine trying to unpick a 300 yo union sharing an island, a currency, a head of state and so much more. I always think of Scots as being fiercely ‘Scottish’ – but I never thought of them as being stupid or reckless. They are not called ‘canny’ for nothing. Perhaps after so many years it’s time to accept we are 1 country on this island not 3 (I leave out NI specifically for geographical reasons and because it is a much more recent part of the UK so the question of Irish reunification can be argued far more strongly than that for Scotland or Wales).