The general election will be fought in Scotland on “competence not the constitution”, offering hope for Labour and a problem for the SNP, according to a leading pollster.

Peter Kellner, the former president of YouGov, said that as the prospect of Indyref2 receded, the cost of living and the SNP’s record in government would come to the fore.

New polling by Opinium published today suggests a third of SNP voters would be ready to prioritise removing the Tories from office next year over independence. 

Mr Kellner said that, and the tactical voting seen in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election, indicated Scotland was “no longer a settled political landscape”.

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The polling also found a majority for Yes on the independence question, with 45% supporting an end to the Union compared to 41% wanting to keep it.

Taking out don’t knows, that translates into 52% Yes and 48% No to independence.

It underlined the recent divergence between support for independence and support for the SNP. 

Mr Kelllner is the co-author of a report published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) titled More United than Divided: How Voters See Scotland’s Future.

It drew on TBI-commissioned polling by Opinium of 1,002 Scottish adults between September 5 and 14. 

The report said the poll found independence was “not a question for today” with the Yes and No tribes dwarfed by the three-quarters of Scots who back closer relations with Europe, and the two-thirds who say improving the NHS should be a top priority.

While support for independence had not gone away, there was a recognition across Scotland that it is currently a more remote prospect, it said. 

That intensified the spotlight on the SNP’s record, where the polling found widespread dissatisfaction on multiple fronts, including among SNP supporters.

Asked about the Scottish Government’s handling of crime, poverty, schools, drug abuse, housing, railways and the NHS, only 3 to 7% of people said it had done “very well” on any issue.

However between 18 and 23% of people said the Government had done “very badly”.

Among SNP voters, only 17% said the Government had run the NHS “very well”, with less than half saying it had done a good job on drug abuse, housing and poverty. 

On general election voting intention, the polling found support for the SNP on 37% (down 8 points on a previous poll), Labour on 28% (+9), and the Tories on 18% (-7).

That suggests the SNP could win 34 of Scotland’s 59 seats under current boundaries, although the party would have precarious majorities in around a dozen more.

Labour won the Rutherglen & Hamilton West byelection overnight on a swing of 20.4%, suggesting it could pick up 40 seats in Scotland next year, however that is a best case scenario, given the Covid rule breaking by previous SNP MP Maragret Ferrier.

Mr Kellner said: “Today’s result coupled with the data in this report should give even the most ardent nationalists and unionists pause for thought. 

“Scotland is no longer a settled political landscape. The SNP grip on Scotland is loosening. 

“A bold offer - one of credible hope that shows a way through a cost-of-living crisis and promises reform of seemingly broken public services - is high in demand. 

“A political party that offers this in the next election can make gains."

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He went on: “The next election will be fought on competence not the constitution meaning Scotland is very much in play for Labour.

“This result could also generate significant momentum for the party. 

“Labour has shown the one-third of SNP voters who prioritise removing the Conservative Party from power in Westminster that they can win.”