John Curtice: SNP controversy likely to help Labour win seats in Scotland at next general election
As Professor John Curtice predicts the SNP’s recent scandal could help Labour’s electoral prospects, MSP Kate Forbes has warned that her party is at a ‘critical moment’.
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Professor John Curtice told NationalWorld that “for the first time since 2015”, Labour has “a realistic prospect of picking up a handful of seats in Scotland”. He said it’s possible that the party could gain as many as 15 seats north of the border - something which would make it easier for Sir Keir Starmer to secure a majority when the country heads to the polls in autumn 2024.
His prediction comes as the SNP faces yet another difficult few days, with news breaking on Tuesday (18 April) that treasurer Colin Beattiehad been arrested in connection with a probe into the party’s finances and funding. Just a fortnight prior, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who is married to ex-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was held in custody for 11 hours - before later being released without charge - as part of the same investigation.
The scandal revolves around £660,000 worth of donations given to the SNP, which was supposedly ring-fenced for a future Scottish independence campaign. However, this money has allegedly been used to fund the party’s day-to-day costs - with concerns being raised that the cash has been spent improperly.
With the party only just recovering from a brusing leadership contest, this kind of attention is the last thing the SNP needs - with the long-term repercussions yet to be seen. But many have of course already indicated that this will damage the party’s electoral prospects, while also improving those of its opponents.
In addition to helping the Labour Party win support in Scotland, Professor Curtice also believes the SNP drama could assist the Tories. “It could make it easier for the Conservative Party to hang on to the seats it already has,” he explained. “But I do still think it helps Labour more.”
Someone else who has commented on the unfolding situation is previous SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, she warned that there are questions “over integrity, trust, and transparency” within the SNP, which mean voters are watching both “extremely carefully” as well as “with astonishment”.
She continued: “We are at a pretty critical moment and it will be the response and the reaction that determines how big a problem this is for the SNP. We perhaps have the next election in the early part of next year.
“[The public] will vote in that election on the basis of how we have sorted out our internal problems – even more than that, how we govern. There is still time to sort it out. But, I said throughout the campaign, and I’m afraid I’m going to say it now – continuity won’t cut it”.
Meanwhile, during a visit to York University, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the SNP is in a “real mess” - adding that the latest developments are “deeply concerning”.
“Obviously there is a criminal investigation going on, so there is only so much I can say,” he continued. “But after 16 years in power, it has descended to this – a real mess – and those being let down are Scottish voters who are entitled to better than this.
“And if anything makes the case for change clear it is what is happening with the SNP just at the moment. Scotland deserves better and with Labour they would get better.”