The British political landscape is witnessing a shift, with the Labour Party steadily gaining popularity over the Conservatives. With a 20-point lead in Politico’s poll of polls, Labour seems poised to secure a significant majority in the next general election.
However, the most intriguing development is the party’s impact in Scotland, where Labour is predicted to win 10 seats, including nine from the Scottish National Party (SNP). This article will explore the factors contributing to Labour’s resurgence in Scotland and assess the possibility of them taking back power from the SNP.
Factors at Play
Three intermingling factors are influencing the political situation in Scotland: leadership, the cost of living crisis, and independence.
In February, the SNP’s leader and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, unexpectedly resigned, leaving a vacuum in Scottish politics. This development is largely viewed as beneficial for the Labour Party. However, the extent of this advantage remains uncertain.
Under Sturgeon’s leadership, the SNP had achieved considerable electoral success, winning eleven consecutive elections. However, her departure has led to a bitter leadership contest between Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and Humza Yousaf.
The winner will inherit a more divided and chaotic party, worsened by the resignation of SNP’s chief executive, Peter Murrell, amid a row over membership figures. The party’s interim leader, Mike Russell, has acknowledged the need to clear up the “tremendous mess” within the SNP.
Cost of Living Crisis
The cost of living crisis is also influencing voters’ priorities. Professor Ailsa Henderson of the University of Edinburgh observes that Scottish voters see the next UK election as an opportunity to remove the Conservatives from power, prioritising this over maximising support for independence.
Recent polling data supports this view. While the SNP still leads in some polls, Labour has become the most favorably viewed party in Scotland, with a net favorability of +10% compared to the SNP’s -1%. Moreover, Scottish independence ranks only third in importance for voters, behind the NHS and the economy.
The SNP’s reliance on the independence cause could be their undoing. For years, they have been the sole standard-bearer for Scottish independence. However, they now face competition from the ALBA Party, founded by Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond. Though ALBA(Gaelic name for Scotland) has yet to gain significant political traction, their presence may siphon off diehard nationalists who previously supported the SNP.
Complicating matters further is the SNP’s unclear strategy for achieving independence. Sturgeon’s three-stage plan for a new referendum has faltered, with the Supreme Court ruling against her, leaving the general election as the only viable option.
Can Labour Take Back Scotland?
While polling data suggests that Labour’s chances of regaining power in Scotland are improving, it’s crucial to exercise caution in interpreting these numbers. Polling has proven unreliable in the past, and many variables could change the political landscape before the next general election.
The outcome of the SNP leadership race remains uncertain, and the impact of the new leader’s policies on the party’s future is yet to be seen. As such, it is essential to examine the factors contributing to the current situation and assess their potential long-term effects.
The Path Ahead for Labour in Scotland
Keeping in mind the current circumstances, here are several key areas where Labour can focus to increase its chances of success in Scotland:
1. Capitalising on Leadership and Party Issues
As the SNP grapples with internal conflicts and leadership battles, Labour can present itself as a steady and united alternative. By emphasizing capable leadership and a well-defined party plan, Labour can draw in voters who are seeking stability and a sense of direction.
2. Addressing the Cost of Living Crisis
Labour can address current economic concerns by offering practical solutions to the cost of living crisis. By concentrating on policies that strengthen the economy, generate employment, and back the NHS, Labour can display its commitment to meeting the immediate needs of the Scottish people.
3. Navigating the Independence Debate
Although independence is still important for many Scottish voters, Labour can highlight its focus on the economy and the NHS to demonstrate its understanding and prioritisation of the electorate’s concerns. By providing a vision for a united and thriving UK, Labour could potentially sway undecided voters who might be considering the SNP or other pro-independence parties.
The political landscape in Scotland is constantly changing, making it too early to say for sure whether Labour can regain control. However, by capitalising on the SNP’s leadership challenges, tackling the cost of living crisis, and handling the independence discussion, Labour has the chance to make considerable progress.
As the situation keeps evolving, it’s essential for Labour to stay flexible and responsive to the shifting priorities of the Scottish electorate. With the right strategy and focus, the party might be able to win back its former stronghold in Scotland.