Andrew Liddle

Labour has a near-impossible job to do in Scotland

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Every leader of Scottish Labour has, since 2007, felt they were turning the corner to recovery – only to discover they were actually on a roundabout. Every new dawn has proven itself to be sometimes agonisingly, and always painfully, false. But now, as the SNP is mired by scandal after scandal, Labour’s odds in Scotland are looking better, even if Labour cannot quite relax yet.

Keir Starmer must not only persuade soft-SNP voters to return to the party but simultaneously those who left Labour for the Conservatives in 2019. 

There are signs that at the next general election things could actually change – for real this time. Nicola Sturgeon has stepped down, her husband – the SNP’s former chief executive – is under police investigation and her successor as First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is clearly not up to the task.

Public dissatisfaction with issues like the state of the economy and gender reform has increased over the SNP’s time in office. In September 2021, polls by Redfield and Wilton found that, after removing the ‘don’t knows’, a third of people disapproved of the Scottish government’s performance on the economy; this had increased to 42 per cent by April this year. While a third of people disapproved of their performance on the NHS in 2021, this jumped to almost one in two by the start of April 2023. Meanwhile, 49 per cent of those surveyed disapprove of the Scottish government’s performance on gender reform compared with 26 per cent who approve. Far from being Greece without the sunshine, SNP Scotland – with the highest tax burden in the UK – looks more like Cuba without the health service.

Under Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour was already enjoying a mini resurgence, which has been turbocharged by the SNP’s recent woes. Labour is now solidly in second place in Scotland, consistently polling

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Written by
Andrew Liddle

Andrew Liddle is a political writer and former adviser to Scottish Labour. He is author of Cheers, Mr Churchill! and Ruth Davidson and the Resurgence of the Scottish Tories.

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