Nationalists' setback

Labour to win more Scots seats than SNP says poll

Humza Yousaf faces a battle to fend off Sir Keir Starmer (pics: Terry Murden)

The Scottish National Party has been dealt a severe blow to its prospects ahead of next weekend’s Independence Convention after a new poll showed Labour on course to win a majority of Westminster seats in Scotland.

It reveals that Labour will become Scotland’s largest party in the Commons by returning 26 MPs from the party’s current single seat.

Defeating the SNP on such a scale will be crucial to Sir Keir Starmer’s chances of entering Downing Street next year.

For the SNP, the loss more than half of its 45 seats would end its chance of securing support from Westminster for another independence referendum for at least another parliamentary term.

The Panelbase Poll for The Sunday Times suggests the SNP would hold just 21 seats after the next general election, their poorest result for 13 years.

Sir John Curtice, the Strathclyde University professor and polling expert, said that the arrest of former leader Nicola Sturgeon last weekend amid an investigation into the party’s finances had proved a turning point in the SNP’s fortunes.

“It 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,” he told the paper.

Ms Sturgeon today returned to her Glasgow home a week after being questioned by police for seven hours. She confirmed that she would return to parliament this week.

Nicola Sturgeon speaking at her home today

She told reporters: “I can’t say very much just now, what I will say is reiterate the statement I issued last Sunday, I’m certain that I have done nothing wrong. “

The poll result has surprised even Labour strategists who had targeted a dozen seats before Ms Sturgeon resigned in February. Should Labour win more than 20 seats in Scotland it could give it an outright majority in the Commons and deny both the SNP and Liberal Democrats the opportunity of offering to share power.

Support for the SNP has fallen five points to 34% since Panelbase’s poll in March, which puts it level with Labour, which has seen its vote share increase by three points.

However, support for Scottish independence remains steady at 44%, indicating that separation and support for the SNP are no longer aligned and will provide a boost to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party which has gained ground on his former party.

Surprisingly, the swing from the SNP to Labour since late March has occurred almost entirely among Yes supporters, according to Sir John.

Panelbase suggests the Conservatives would add one Scottish MP by winning seven constituencies. The Liberal Democrats would clinch another seat to return five.

SNP leader Humza Yousaf saw his personal rating rise by four points, though it is still minus 12. Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, scored minus 2 and Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, minus 34.

However, Mr Yousaf has been criticised over his decision to uncritically throw his support behind Ms Sturgeon after her arrest, particularly by refusing to suspend her from the party and saying anyone not willing to back his decisions should quit the party.

The poll was published ahead of the SNP’s Independence Convention in Dundee next weekend.. It had been scheduled for March but was postponed after Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown will rally support ahead of the event by claiming the case for Scottish independence has never been more compelling.

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