The Scottish Tories could slip into third place behind Labour for the first time in six years at next week’s Scottish local elections, according to a new poll.
Partygate and a succession of scandals at Westminster appear to be playing on voters minds as they prepare to head to the ballot box on Thursday.
The latest tracker survey from polling company Panelbase found the SNP are on course for a comfortable victory on May 5.
But there could be further troubles ahead for Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross if Labour surge ahead as predicted and leapfrog his party into second place.
SNP predicted to win comfortably
Council elections can be tricky for parties in government but the Panelbase poll puts the SNP on 42% when undecided voters are excluded.
That figure would be a significant jump from the 32% the party recorded at the last local elections in 2017.
But it also represents a six point drop for the SNP since the company polled last November.
Meanwhile, Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour are predicted to finish on 24% this time around, with the Conservatives languishing at 21%.
The Lib Dems were fourth on 7% and others are predicted to attract 5% of the votes.
The survey of 1,009 voters in Scotland was conducted last week before the SNP government’s 15th anniversary in power.
SNP rise ‘far from certain’
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the polls confirms the impression that the Tories will struggle to defend the high water mark they achieved last time around.
He told the Sunday Times: “Such an outcome would only exacerbate the political fragmentation and division on the pro-Union side of Scotland’s constitutional debate.”
However, he added it is “far from certain that the SNP will be able to improve significantly on what proved to be no more than a modest performance in 2017, and thereby add further impetus to its attempt to hold another independence referendum”.
Focusing minds a tough task for Tories
Douglas Ross will hope to focus minds on bins, potholes and council tax as the Tories enter the final days before the local elections with a new scandal adding to partygate.
Conservative MP Neil Parish announced his resignation on Saturday as he admitted twice watching pornography in the House of Commons.
The fresh embarrassment comes as activists canvas for votes for a Tory party led by a prime minister who was fined by police for breaching his own coronavirus laws.
Boris Johnson will hope voters prioritise his perceived successes, such as the vaccine rollout and Brexit, rather than the lockdown breaches and tax hikes.
In a statement released ahead of the polls, the prime minister said: “The elections next Thursday matter.
“People are voting for councillors and councils who decide how often bins are collected, how many potholes are repaired and how much council tax is paid.
“And I have to tell you that its hardworking Conservative councillors and councils across the country who deliver better local services while managing taxpayers’ money wisely.”