Conor Magowan from Weber Shandwick Scotland reports on the radically changing landscape in Scottish politics
North of the border, we have had the (dubious) pleasure of three Scottish leaders debates in the past week. Passionate, articulate and engaging, Scotland’s main party leaders all emerged with credit after what must have been a gruelling week. The smaller players, however, probably did more damage to their reputations. Green co-convener Patrick Harvie froze when asked if his party was against capitalism and UKIP leader in Scotland David Coburn elevated himself to a figure of ridicule and mockery after a truly disastrous appearance in Aberdeen on the BBC.
Have the debates had any effect on the mood of the nation?
No. The ‘Sturge Surge’ continues to advance. The recent TNS poll puts the Nationalists at 52% of the vote which, if plugged into our ScotlandVotes predictor tool, delivers the following results on the 8th May:
— ScotlandVotes (@scotlandvotes) April 13, 2015
Jim Murphy landed significant hits on Nicola Sturgeon in relation to full fiscal autonomy (FFA) – exposing a lack of detail around nationalist thinking on the policy as well as a fiscal black hole should it be introduced.
Future polling in the wake of the FFA attacks may swing back towards Labour, but at the moment, it doesn’t look like Murphy has attracted those Labour supporters that voted Yes in the referendum back to the party. In an interview with the Financial Times, a Labour MP neatly summed up the mood: “I’m now set to Defcon f***ed, I’m expecting to leave and never come back. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how weak your (SNP) opponent is – it’s over.”
The nationalists relentlessly continue to press their message to maintain relevance at this election. This is achieved by old school campaigning, a mightily impressive grassroots operation and remember, virtually no support in the media for their core policy. My colleague @DuncMcKay points out here other reasons that explain the SNP rise.
Ruth Davidson had an excellent referendum and is continuing that form into the general election. She is, without doubt, the Conservative and Unionist Party’s strongest and most coherent communicator in defence of the Union. Despite this, the FPTP system coupled with the Tory legacy in Scotland means that holding 1 seat will be seen as an achievement in May.
As for the Scottish Liberal Democrats? You’d better not ask…