LABOUR'S chances of avoiding electoral wipeout in Scotland in next month's General Election will be boosted by tactical voting, according to one of Britain's leading polling experts.


Huge numbers of Conservative and Lib Dem voters are prepared to back Labour to keep out the SNP, a new YouGov poll for Channel 4 News found.

Their willingness to switch sides, which also underlines how the country has split down the middle since last year's independence referendum, will save Labour 13 of its 40 Scottish seats, said Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov.

Such an outcome would be a huge blow for Labour, but better than the four seats the party would retain if the SNP's overwhelming poll lead translated into a uniform swing across Scotland.

Campaigning in Edinburgh yesterday Labour leader Ed Miliband launched a major push to halt the remarkable Nationalist surge with a powerful attack on the SNP's plans for full fiscal autonomy and its record on social justice.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon accused him of repeating "indyref style fears and smears".

Meanwhile the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson hit back after Labour ruled out even a loose "confidence and supply" pact with the SNP after the election, saying voters in England should "not be fearful" of the SNP making big gains on May 7.

YouGov found almost half of all Conservative and Lib Dem supporters were prepared to switch to Labour to keep out the SNP in a two-horse race between those parties.

In seats where the SNP and Tories were in a straight fight, one in three Labour and Lib Dem supporters would back the Tories.

The SNP also stands to gain from tactical voting - 30 per cent of the party's supporters would side with Labour to keep out a Conservative candidate - but to a much lesser degree, according to YouGov

Mr Kellner said: "We can't be sure how many voters will appreciate the local tactical situation.

"However, I would expect it to save up to nine Labour MPs, such as Douglas Alexander in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, and two Liberal Democrats, including Charles Kennedy in Ross Skye and Lochaber.

"Some Labour and Lib Dem MPs with a strong personal following may be able to stop some of their past supporters from switching to the SNP."

He added: "Given the significance of Scotland in this election - both constitutionally and in terms of its impact on whether Labour or the Conservatives end up as the largest party at Westminster - it is clear that tactical voting in Scotland may have a real effect on Britain's future."

Polling expert John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said tactical voting "might help ensure that some seats remain beyond the SNP's grasp".

However he predicted it would cost the SNP no more than seven of the 54 seats he has forecast them to win and as few as four.

The tactical voting findings followed a devastating poll on Thursday which showed the Nationalists extending their lead.

The survey, also by YouGov, put support for the SNP at a record 49 per cent (up three points) with Labour slumping four points to 25 per cent.

If the results were repeated across the country, the SNP would see its six seats increase to 53, while Scottish Labour's tally would fall from 40 to four, according to YouGov, with the Conservatives and Lib Dems taking a seat apiece.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Labour voters should always vote Labour, and everyone in Scotland is welcome to vote for our better plan for a fairer Scotland.

"We'll use fair taxes to deliver extra investment in our NHS and open opportunities for young people. The SNP's reckless plan to cut Scotland off from taxes from the rest of the UK would leave a £7.6 billion black hole in Scotland's finances would be an absolute disaster for Scottish families."

Labour's continued slide in the polls in Scotland came as three separate surveys showed Mr Miliband's party opening up a lead of between three and six points over the Conservatives across the UK.