Labour will defeat the SNP at the next election for the first time since 2010 to become Scotland’s largest party at Westminster, according to a new poll published today.

A survey by Panelbase found Sir Keir Starmer's party would return 26 MPs — up from one currently - while the SNP would hold 21 seats down from the 48 they won in 2019.

The scenario would dramatically boost Starmer's chances of entering Downing Street next year and removing the Conservatives from power. The SNP would likely be cast into turmoil with questions raised whether Humza Yousaf should remain as leader and lead the party into the next Holyrood election in 2016. 

The survey for The Sunday Times — the first to be wholly conducted since Nicola Sturgeon was arrested last Sunday — signals a significant downturn for the SNP and would be their poorest result for 13 years.

READ MORE: Poll: Nicola Sturgeon's popularity crashes amid police probe into SNP

Sir John Curtice, the Strathclyde University professor and polling expert, said that Sturgeon’s arrest last weekend amid a police investigation into SNP finances “has undermined the confidence of Yes supporters in her and her party in a way the arrest two months ago of her husband, Peter Murrell, did not”.

Senior Labour strategists had set a realistic target of a dozen seats before Sturgeon resigned in February. Winning 20 in Scotland could be the difference between Labour achieving an outright majority in the Commons and a hung parliament.

It would also bestow upon Starmer the “legitimacy” in Scotland he craves to ensure he became “not the prime minister of the UK, but the prime minister for the UK”.

Backing for the SNP has fallen to 34 per cent, a drop of five points compared with Panelbase’s last poll in March, which puts it level with Labour, which has seen its vote share increase by three points over the same period.

The Herald:

Humza Yousaf pictured with Kate Forbes during the SNP leadership contest.  Photo PA.

With support for Scottish independence remaining steady at 47 per cent, this poll cements the growing suspicion that the link between the independence movement and the SNP has been broken.

“The swing from the SNP to Labour since late March has occurred almost entirely among Yes supporters,” Curtice told the Sunday Times.

The Conservatives would attract 18 per cent of the vote, a fall of one point since March, and lead to the party adding one Scottish MP by winning seven constituencies.

The Liberal Democrats would clinch another seat to return five MPs.
Although a replica of the Panelbase poll would still leave Labour well short of the 41 seats it won in 2010, it would represent a turning point in Scottish politics after 13 years of SNP dominance which led to the Nationalists winning the last six elections at Westminster and Holyrood.

READ MORE: Yousaf cements continuity candidate status by not suspending Sturgeon

Sturgeon was arrested after attending a pre-arranged interview with detectives investigating the SNP’s finances. The inquiry began after multiple complaints about how more than £600,000 earmarked for a new independence campaign was spent.

She issued a statement after she had been released without charge, saying that she “would never do anything to harm either the SNP or the country”. She added: “I know beyond doubt that I am, in fact, innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Panelbase found that her personal popularity had plummeted by 38 points since February, shortly after she resigned as first minister and when it last asked voters whether they thought she was doing a good job. At that time she recorded a plus 20 rating but last week she scored minus 18.

Yousaf received a small increase in his ratings, by four points to minus 12, although both politicians trailed Kate Forbes, the former finance secretary, who returned the only positive rating of plus 3, albeit with many voters uncertain. Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, scored minus 2 and Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, minus 34.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf tells SNP MSPs to ‘back Nicola Sturgeon or quit party'

The approval performance results for the politicians broadly echoed a Savanta poll for the Scotsman published on Friday. The increase in Yousaf’s ratings could give some assurance to SNP strategists who believe his personal charm are beginning to percolate through to voters.

However, others are critical of his decision to defend Sturgeon so vociferously. On Tuesday he told his MSPs that anyone not willing to put their personal issues to one side and fully back his decisions should quit the party. He made the remarks after being challenged over his refusal to suspend Sturgeon from the SNP.

Support for independence remains steady in the poll, in keeping with recent surveys, with 44 per cent of people backing Yes (don’t knows included), a fall of two points, while 50 per cent of people said they would vote No, up one point. Six per cent said they were unsure.

READ MORE: What will Humza Yousaf do about his predecessor?

There is little enthusiasm for a new referendum among those polled, though, with 22 per cent saying there should be a vote before the end of next year, the same proportion who want another vote to be held off for a decade or more. Twenty per cent said it should be within five years and 29 per cent said a referendum should never take place again.

The SNP’s slide is less acute in Holyrood voting intentions, suggesting that the electorate differentiates between choosing UK and Scottish governments and will shift their backing accordingly.

For local constituencies, the SNP would return 36 per cent, down one point; the Tories 13 per cent, down four points; Labour 32 per cent, down one point; the Lib Dems 9 per cent, up one point; the Scottish Greens 7 per cent, up two points; with other parties making up the remaining 3 per cent.

The regional list, or second vote, would see the SNP fall a point to 30 per cent; the Conservatives drop three to 17 per cent; Labour go up by one point to 28 per cent; the Lib Dems increase by two points to 8 per cent; the Greens put on two points to reach 12 per cent; and Alba, the party led by Alex Salmond, fall one point to 4 per cent.

Curtice said that this would leave the SNP with 47 seats and Greens 14, which is four seats short of a pro-independence majority. Labour would return 37 MSPs, the Conservatives 23 and Lib Dems eight, with Alba not winning any representation.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The polls are clear – Labour has ended the SNP’s stranglehold on Scottish politics and is fighting to win seats across the country.

“The people of Scotland know that only Labour can kick the Tories out and deliver the change we need – all the SNP offer is more chaos and sleaze.

“The road to a Labour government runs through Scotland, and the next Labour government will deliver for the people of Scotland.

“From tackling the cost-of-living crisis to generating thousands of green jobs, Scottish Labour is the change Scotland needs.”

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Following a tough few weeks for the party, support for the SNP remains strong – but we will continue to take absolutely nothing for granted and work every day to deliver for the people of Scotland.

“Until the next election, the people-powered SNP campaign will bring that positive message of a fairer, greener and more equal nation to the doorsteps and will fight relentlessly for every single vote.

“Only the full powers of independence can protect Scotland from the damage of Brexit and the mismanagement of Tory governments Scotland doesn’t vote for.

“The SNP remain the political powerhouse to deliver that change.”

Panelbase interviewed 1,007 people aged 16 and over in Scotland between June 12 and 15.