NIC’S NEW POLL SHOCK
Approval rating plummets on eve of conference
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
SETBACK Sturgeon at Westminster after June’s result. Gordon Guthrie, right, and Alex Neil, below right