SNP no longer on track to win Holyrood majority, new polling suggests

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during the debate ahead of a vote of no confidence against Deputy Fir

First minister Nicola Sturgeon during the debate ahead of a vote of no confidence against Deputy First Minister John Swinney at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh - Credit: PA

The SNP are no longer on course to win a majority in this May's Holyrood elections, new polling has suggested.

The survey, conducted by Sevanta ComRes on behalf of The Scotsman, found Scots being put off the SNP over its leader's botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

This is the first major poll since both Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond gave evidence to the ongoing Holyrood harassment inquiry. 

The polling showed favourability ratings for Sturgeon and the SNP were sliding from pre-Christmas highs as Boris Johnson and Downing Street saw an improvement in their popularity, suggesting Scots could vote in a hung parliament.

Asked who they would vote for in their constituency vote - which is one of two voting categories in Scottish elections - 48% of the 1009 Scottish adults aged 16 and over surveyed said they would vote for the SNP, down 6% from last month.

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The SNP's vote is also down in the regional list - the second category - with 40% of Scots saying they would vote for the party, down 3% compared with last month.

There was also a bump in the polls for the Scottish Conservative Party, with 23% of Scots backing them in the constituency ballot, the same as February, and 24% backing them in the list vote, up 4%.

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Under the Scottish electoral system, Scots are required to vote for a constituency MSP and a regional "additional member". In the latter, voters in eight regions cast their ballot for a party, which then chooses a member according to its share of the vote. Constituent MSPs are decided by the "first-past-the-post" system used in UK general elections. In total, there are 73 constituent and 56 additional member seats up for grab.

Labour was the biggest winner from the March 10 survey, with 20% saying they would vote for new leader Anas Sarwar's party - their strongest performance in 2021 and up 4% since February. However, Labour made no gains in the regional list in returning 18% of the vote.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats could also be set for an improvement in the constituency vote with 8% of Scots, up 3%, with their performance on the list unchanged from February on 6%.

MORE: Poll suggests Salmond inquiry driving voters away from Scottish independence

The Scottish Greens have also seen their vote share on the regional list stay the same at 10%.

Such a result in May would see the SNP miss out on a majority by one seat, returning 64 MSPs, one more than in 2016.

It would also see the number of Conservative MSPs drop from 31 to 30, and Labour’s representation drop from 24 to 20, with the Liberal Democrats retaining their five MSPs.

Favourability towards the Scottish government has also taken a steep dive, down 13% when compared to February, with a net favourability of 11%. This is down 6% when compared to December.

Johnson meanwhile has seen a similar level of improvement in his approval ratings, rising by 14% when compared to December and up five points since February, now sitting at a net favourability of -30 per cent, still well below Sturgeon's.

Associate director of Savanta ComRes Chris Hopkins said: "While the headline here may look bad for the SNP, and the natural conclusion to draw that the Salmond inquiry is having an impact, but ultimately the facts remain that, on these Holyrood numbers, the SNP would likely be incredibly close to forming a majority under an electoral system not designed for majorities.

"While the inquiry continues to play out, it’s still worth remembering how far away both the Conservatives and Labour are from really denting the SNP’s dominance and it would take a complete capitulation to change the likely outcome at the Holyrood election in May."

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