Does Scotland really hold the key to a Labour majority?

Just under 10 years ago, at the 2015 General Election, Labour was nearly wiped out in Scotland and the electoral map was a sea of SNP yellow. Since then, the SNP has remained dominant but come July 4, the tides are likely to turn and the SNP could be in for a rough ride.

The SNP will undoubtedly lose seats but just how many is uncertain. 18 turbulent months of resignations, police investigations, parliamentary discord and ideological splits threaten the SNP’s long-held and tired dominance, and it presents an opportunity for Labour.

With 57 seats up for grabs, Labour thinks it can take around 28 of them and the party is channelling funds to seats it thinks it can comfortably take from the SNP. It has often been said that Labour winning Scottish seats makes it easier for the party to win the overall election but it has only meant a crucial difference twice; in 1966 and 1974.

Scotland is unlikely to be the gatekeeper to Downing Street in this election as most signs point to Labour having a comfortable – if not record-breaking – majority without needing to turn all of Scotland’s hue to red.

Instead, a Labour resurgence north of the border next month might be a sign of things to come in a much tighter 2026 Scottish Parliament election. It could determine whether the constitutional dispute on Scottish independence heats up again or languishes on the back burner.

The SNP has said that a vote for it is a vote for independence, and at its manifesto launch, it said it would trigger talks on independence if it secures a majority of seats next month. Regardless of which party controls Westminster, the government in London will probably remain uninterested in engaging in independence and approving another referendum.

If the SNP fails to secure a majority, the independence question will not disappear but it might force the party to take a less aggressive stance. And a detrimental loss of support will only make it harder for John Swinney to make the case ahead of 2026 where he, or whoever might be next in the SNP line of succession, may have to make way for Anas Sarwar as First Minister.

It is also worth touching on the Conservatives in Scotland. The Tories and SNP might well be battling each other to win seats in the North East but much like the rest of the UK, the Conservatives are a spent force. Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross, the [for now] leader of the Scottish Conservatives, are unpopular figures and the party, according to a recent Ipsos MRP, might only win around four seats at most.

The main fight is between the SNP and Labour, and both are working hard to ensure they can persuade undecideds and gain broad support for their agendas. But the question remains, not if the SNP will lose seats but how many and whether an inevitable headache on the morning of July 5 becomes a migraine that dogs the party for years to come.


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To find out more about Copper’s work in Scotland please get in touch with Jamie Bannerman.