UK’s leading poll expert lays out four possible interpretations of why the SNP lost seats
WHAT’S THE REAL STORY behind the SNP’s shock loss of 21 seats in the 8 June General Election?
Though the SNP still won the election in Scotland, with 35 of 59 seats, the party was challenged by the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in toppling the Tory majority government.
CommonSpace spoke to leading poll expert Professor John Curtice about the pressures on the SNP vote, and how its relative electoral decline can be explained.
From the (very much incomplete) polling data available, Curtice outlined for possible scenarios for that would explain the blow to SNP support, adding it is “impossible at this stage to tell you which one of these is right and which one is wrong, but they are all perfectly possible candidates”.
CommonSpace presents Curtice’s four interpretations of the SNP’s travails in the 2017 General Election.
1. Independence supporters were less enthusiastic about the party than 2015
Curtice said: “Some of those who supported independence are not wild on the idea of a second independence vote soon. Either because they don’t think they’d win it and are therefore not keen on it, or because they thought it would be once in a generation and they don’t want to push it again soon.”
This claim suggests that it was calling for a fresh independence vote could have been too early for some previous SNP supporters, and that they opted for others parties that claimed to support other political priorities.
2. Criticism of devolved policy was enough to put voters off
Curtice said: “The Scottish Government’s domestic record are not regarded as particularly favourable in certain areas, particularly in respect to education, means that some pro-Yes voters have been put off.”
The SNP has been in power in Holyrood since 2007 – first as a minority government, then as a majority government, and now again as a minority government. This has included responsibility for areas including health, education, policing, housing, and some economic and tax powers. Criticism from the left and the right, called on voters to leave the party based on its domestic record.
3. The SNP was again sidelined by the Westminster election system
Curtice said: “Apart from 2015, its always been difficult for the SNP to do well in Westminster elections. Unfortunately no one ever did a poll in which they had both the Holyrood and Westminster voting intentions. So we don’t know to what extent the Westminster voting intention was below what might have been the Holyrood voting intention at the time, but it’s possible we are back to a situation where people are saying – what’s the point of voting for the SNP [in a Westminster election].”
Prior to 2015, the SNP had faired relatively poorly in Westminster elections. The party’s victories in 2007 and 2011 were not replicated in the prior Westminster elections of 2005 and 2010, when the Labour Party swept Scotland. Arguably, it is difficult for the SNP to dominate the agenda where it cannot form the leading government. With the two-largest UK parties in the ascendency, the SNP faced an added challenge in a UK election.
4. The Corbyn surge squeezed the SNP from the left
Curtice said: “Then the final factor is the impact of the Corbyn surge and the SNP undoubtedly lost out as a result of some of that.”
Labour made a previously unexpected come back in Scotland – winning seats in Rutherglen and Glasgow. As Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign picked up in England, there was also a polling increase for Labour in Scotland – which may have been a crucial factor in reducing SNP support among left-wing, anti-establishment voters that decided to back Corbyn.
Picture courtesy of kaysgeoug
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