Tories will make no gains in Scotland, poll shows

YouGov survey suggests Tories will fail to improve on single Scottish seat.

There's a new Scottish poll from YouGov in the Scotsman this morning which suggests that the Tories will struggle to improve on the solitary seat they gained in 2005.

The poll puts Labour on 37 per cent, down just 2 points since the last election, with the Lib Dems down 1 to 22 per cent, the Scottish National Party up 3 to 21 per cent and the Tories up 1 to just 17 per cent.

If repeated on a uniform swing, the figures would allow Labour to regain Glasgow East from the SNP and Dunfermline West from the Lib Dems. Meanwhile, Nick Clegg's party would gain Edinburgh South and the SNP would take Ochil and South Perthshire from Labour.

Here's a full breakdown:

Labour 39 (+2)
Lib Dems 12 (+1)
SNP 7 (+1)
Conservatives 1 (nc)

Based on the Tories' current poll lead, the minute swing to them in Scotland implies, however, that they're performing disproportionately well in other regions such as the Midlands and the south of England.

All the same, presented with the poll finding by a Scotsman journalist, Cameron replied:

Poll . . . poll shmole. We have got a big one on Thursday. What's the point of worrying about polls now? Everyone has got a chance to vote on Thursday.

That Cameron has been forced to resort to the line "There's only one poll that counts" is sign of diminished confidence in the party. The Tories are neither where they wanted to be, nor where they expected to be.

The weeks that Cameron hoped to spend leading a majority government will now be spent desperately trying to win support from the Democratic Unionist Party and others.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.