Ap­proval rat­ing plum­mets on eve of con­fer­ence

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Front Page - Mark Aitken

Ni­cola Stur­geon’s lead­er­ship has been rocked by a sec­ond neg­a­tive opin­ion poll on the eve of her party’s con­fer­ence.

It shows her per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity has slumped to its low­est since be­com­ing First Min­is­ters – and most Scots dis­ap­proves off the SNP’s record in of­fice.

Ni­cola Stur­geon has been urged by se­nior SNP fig­ures to be more “rad­i­cal and imag­i­na­tive” when she ad­dresses party mem­bers this week.

Their plea fol lows two eve- of- con­fer­ence polls that show de­clin­ing pub­lic sup­port for the SNP Gov­ern­ment and the First Min­is­ter her­self.

Stur­geon’s au­thor­ity suf­fered a huge blow when her party lost 21 seats at West­min­ster in June’s snap elec­tion, forc­ing her to de­lay her timetable for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

And yes­ter­day, prom­i­nent party mem­bers warned that she needed to set out a bold new vi­sion in her speech in Glas­gow on Tues­day if the party were to stay in power.

For­mer health sec­re­tary Alex Neil said: “I think a more rad­i­cal and imag­i­na­tive ap­proach to tax­a­tion is one way in which we can start to show the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment are mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence.”

He ca l led for a levy on un­used de­vel­op­ment land and on va­cant and derelict land, which could raise hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds a year.

The Air­drie and Shotts MSP said: “I would look at ways of tax­ing wealth rather than al­ready hard-pressed work­ers to raise ad­di­tional money so that we can meet the Bud­get chal­lenges.”

Neil, the only se­nior SNP fig­ure to openly sup­port Brexit, also urged Stur­geon to adopt a more prag­matic ap­proach to the UK leav­ing the EU.

He said: “I think her lan­guage on Brexit has to change and be­come much more about knuck­ling down and mak­ing the best of Brexit for Scot­land.

“Most peo­ple want us to just get on with it and get the best deal pos­si­ble for Scot­land.

“We give the im­pres­sion some­times that we’re re-fight­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum rather than look­ing to the fu­ture and ac­cept­ing the re­al­ity that the UK is com­ing out of Europe.”

Mean­while, a se­nior SNP source said: “The party have been in gov­ern­ment for a decade and are proud of their record. But their record to date won’ t get them re-elected in four years’ time.

“What we have to do now is to be bold and put a spring back into our step.

“Re­ly­ing on our past glo­ries is not go­ing to cut the mus­tard. The SNP’s vote has dropped in each of the last three elec­tions.

“We need to bring in some new ideas and fresh faces if we are to en­er­gise the elec­torate.

“What held the SNP back more than any­thing in the Gen­eral Elec­tion was our sup­port­ers not com­ing out to vote. We need to find a way to mo­ti­vate and mo­bilise our sup­port.”

Inf lu­en­tial SNP ac­tivist Gor­don Guthrie called for a truce with Labour to fight Brexit in the pages of the Sun­day Mail last week.

He said yes­ter­day: “Ni­cola has a ter­ri­ble tac­ti­cal prob­lem – all the ac­tion is at West­min­ster. No­body knows how Brexit will work out, or what the time­lines are. She is on the back foot and re­act­ing.

“But strate­gi­cally the SNP are in a good po­si­tion. West­min­ster is badly dis­cred­ited and scarcely work­ing.

“As Brexit falls apart, the fall­out is break­ing up the Tory Party. Jeremy Cor­byn is rid­ing high as long as he’s in op­po­si­tion but his party are as split on Brexit as the Tories.

“The chal­lenge for Ni­cola is to present busi­ness as usual as progress to­wards IndyRef2.

“Proper gov­ern­ment in Holyrood is her strong­est card, the only pos­si­ble base for a his­toric fourth elec­tion vic­tory.”

John Cur­tice, pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at Strath­clyde Uni­ver­sity, said: “In her speech in the sum­mer when she post­poned IndyRef2, Ni­cola Stur­geon said she was go­ing to re­set the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s di­rec­tion.

“I’m not sure the Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment par­tic­u­larly

did that. There is an ar­gu­ment for sug­gest­ing she would be wise to spend a fair amount of her speech telling us more about what the sense of di­rec­tion is go­ing to be.

“There are two ar­eas in par­tic­u­lar her Gov­ern­ment have been fac­ing crit­i­cism on – ed­u­ca­tion and the sense of leg­isla­tive in­ac­tiv­ity.

“We have been promised a con­ver­sa­tion about what we should do with Scot­land’s tax pow­ers. If the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment are minded to use the tax pow­ers be­yond what they’ve al­ready done, then I would have thought she would be wise to try to lay the ground for do­ing that.”

Deputy First Min­is­ter John Swin­ney will open the three-day con­fer­ence this af­ter­noon by in­sist­ing the SNP are the only party “de­liv­er­ing pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ment any­where in the UK”.

He will point to re­cent an­nounce­ments about lift­ing the pub­lic sec­tor pay cap and ban­ning frack­ing.

Swin­ney said yes­ter­day: “We are the only party firmly fo­cused on the pri­or­i­ties of the peo­ple of Scot­land, protecting Scot­land’s in­tere sts and en­sur ing Scot­land’s voice is heard.

“Against the back­drop of Brexit, Labour and the Tories have de­scended into un­prece­dented chaos. And amids t the com­plete ab­di­ca­tion of lead­er­ship on the key is­sues of the day, the re­spon­si­bil­ity on the SNP to de­liver strong gov­ern­ment has never been greater. the SNP will build on our new plan for Scot­land with a pol­icy pro­gramme to ad­dress the con­cerns peo­ple care about the most, such as hous­ing, the econ­omy and pub­lic ser­vices.”

A YouGov poll yes­ter­day sug­gested the SNP are set to lose their pro-in­de­pen­dence ma­jor­ity at Holyrood.

The sur­vey puts them on course to win the next Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tion but both they and the Greens would lose seats, forc­ing Stur­geon to run a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Mean­while, an­other YouGov poll com­mis­sioned by pro-UK cam­paign group Scot­land in Union found 42 per cent of vot­ers dis­ap­proved of the SNP’s record in of­fice com­pared with 39 per cent who ap­proved.

But 45 per cent thought Stur­geon is do­ing well, while 44 per cent thought she was do­ing badly, giv­ing her an ap­proval rat­ing of +1.

This com­pares with an ap­proval rat­ing of + 42 in Fe­bru­ary 2015, three months af­ter she be­came First Min­is­ter.

Scot­land in Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Pamela Nash said: “Th­ese fig­ures show the tide is now turn­ing and the SNP’s ob­ses­sion with the con­sti­tu­tion is cost­ing them sup­port.

“This gov­ern­ment’s legacy af­ter a decade is noth­ing more than a lost ref­er­en­dum, while the First Min­is­ter has been di­min­ished by her at­tempts to force a sec­ond poll.”

We need to find a way to mo­ti­vate and mo­bilise our sup­port

LOOK­ING TO WIN BACK VOT­ERS Ni­cola Stur­geon has suf­fered a big drop in her ap­proval rat­ings

PRI­OR­I­TIES Swin­ney

SET­BACK Stur­geon at West­min­ster af­ter June’s re­sult. Gor­don Guthrie, right, and Alex Neil, be­low right

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