UK election

Tories seek to turn tide in fight for Scottish voters

In the oil-rich north-eastern constituency of Aberdeen South, the Scottish National Party is at risk of falling to the Tories, which last held this constituency in 1992.
The Union flag playing a large role at a march in Glasgow. Some voters are becoming upset at Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon's insistence on a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon (top left) with the candidate for the Paisley co
The Union flag playing a large role at a march in Glasgow. Some voters are becoming upset at Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon's insistence on a second independence referendum. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Union flag playing a large role at a march in Glasgow. Some voters are becoming upset at Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon's insistence on a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon (top left) with the candidate for the Paisley co
Ms Sturgeon (above left) with the candidate for the Paisley constituency, Ms Mhairi Black, on the campaign trail. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Union flag playing a large role at a march in Glasgow. Some voters are becoming upset at Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon's insistence on a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon (top left) with the candidate for the Paisley co
(Above) A flag-seller at a march in support of Scottish independence in Glasgow.PHOTO: REUTERS

Scottish National Party's huge victory in 2015 polls could be eroded this time, surveys show

Four polls in four successive years.

The Scots have been visiting the ballot box more than anyone else in recent history.

They first cast their votes in an independence referendum in 2014, then in Britain's general election the next year. Last year, they went to the polls again for the referendum on whether the country will remain part of the European Union.

On Thursday, they will vote for who they want to represent them in Westminster.

With the prospect of a second independence referendum looming and Brexit on their minds, Scottish voters are turning the northern country into a key battleground as Prime Minister Theresa May looks to turn the tide for her Conservative Party after being wiped out in Scotland 20 years ago.

Surveys are showing that the landslide victory which the Scottish National Party (SNP) had in the nation's 2015 general election could be eroded this time, with a recent one by pollster YouGov giving SNP 42 per cent of the vote share, while the Tories have 29 per cent.

  • SCOTLAND VOTES AGAIN

  • POPULATION: 5.4 million

    NUMBER OF VOTERS: 3.92 million

    NUMBER OF SEATS IN UK PARLIAMENT: 59 out of 650

  • NUMBER OF SEATS BY POLITICAL PARTIES IN THE LAST FIVE GENERAL ELECTIONS

    1997: 56 Labour; 10 Liberal Democrats; 6 Scottish National Party (SNP); 0 Conservatives

    2001: 56 Labour; 10 Liberal Democrats; 5 SNP; 1 Conservatives

    2005: 41 Labour; 11 Liberal Democrats; 6 SNP; 1 Conservatives

    2010: 41 Labour; 11 Liberal Democrats; 6 SNP; 1 Conservatives

    2015: 56 SNP; 1 Labour; 1 Liberal Democrats; 1 Conservatives

  • VOTING INTENTION POLL FOR THURSDAY'S GENERAL ELECTION: 42% SNP; 29% Conservatives; 19% Labour; 6% Liberal Democrats; 3% Other (Source: YouGov from May 15-18)

    VOTING INTENTION POLL FOR SECOND INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM: 50% no to independence; 42% yes to independence; 8% don't know (Sources: Survation, Panelbase, YouGov, TNS-BMRB, Ipsos Mori, BMG Research, June 2)

Trailing the two parties is Labour at 19 per cent.

Two years ago, SNP took a stunning 50 per cent of the vote share, sweeping 56 of the 59 parliamentary seats in Westminster and leaving its political rivals Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories with just one seat each.

But there are signs that this love for the nationalist party has turned a little sour for some, who have become increasingly annoyed at party leader Nicola Sturgeon's insistence on a second independence referendum.

"There's a strong anti-SNP feeling in the area," said Mr William Steward, 65, a retired teacher who lives in Edinburgh South.

"There's a strong feeling that her main ambition in life is to get independence. That's what she's concentrating on and she's not spending as much time as she should on governing the country, dealing with education and health and other problems we have."

He has cast a postal vote for incumbent MP Ian Murray, who is hanging on to the last Labour seat in Scotland after his party - once a dominant force - was destroyed by SNP in the last election, losing 40 of the 41 seats it held.

The worry for SNP is that those who oppose independence - 55.3 per cent who voted no in the 2014 referendum - will give their vote tactically to the unionist parties.

Indeed, the Scottish Conservatives' agenda in the north is unabashedly "to stop indyref2", as their banners and posters declare.

Already, pundits and the press are talking about a Tory resurgence in Scotland, after the party more than doubled its vote from 2012 in the recent local council elections.

Projections show SNP to be on shaky ground in a few areas, including Aberdeen South where Mrs May, who resumed her campaigning yesterday after suspending it over the London Bridge terror attack, recently visited.

If the Tories are lucky, they could take 11 seats from SNP.

"I think if there was another independence vote, there would be even fewer people now who would vote for it," said Ms Ione Gilmour, 57, a carer for the elderly who lives in Ellon near Aberdeen.

"It's done. The outcome was no. People wanted to stay in the United Kingdom.

"You just got to accept it. It's always been a united kingdom."

Yet, Ms Gilmour will support SNP, as she has done all her life.

"I never liked the Tories. I feel they are for the well-off people and Labour is for working-class people, but they get the country into masses of debt. Because I live in Scotland, Scotland's interest should come first."

Mr Gordon Sinclair, 60, a former marketing manager for a disability employment placement provider, voted for independence, but was also among the 48 per cent of Scottish voters who wanted to leave the European Union.

"I don't trust Theresa May to take us out of Brexit because I really think she'll come back with no deal," said the staunch SNP supporter.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Tories seek to turn tide in fight for Scottish voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe