The Conservatives are poised to replace Labour as the main party of opposition in Scotland, a STV News poll suggests.
The research, carried out by Ipsos-MORI, puts Ruth Davidson’s party ahead of Scottish Labour on the regional list vote by two percentage points. On the constituency vote, Labour retains a one percentage point advantage over the Tories.
However, with both parties set to pick-up a majority of their seats from the regional lists, if the findings were to be replicated on election night the Tories would leapfrog Labour into second place.
That outcome would mark the first time Labour has finished third in a national poll in Scotland since the December 1910 election.
The poll is the latest in a series which indicates the SNP are on course to form a third-term government, their second term with an outright majority of seats in Holyrood.
The polling figures will also be welcome news to the Scottish Greens who would become the nation’s fourth largest party, replacing the Liberal Democrats, if these results play out on election day.
When the figures are run through the Scotland Votes seat predictor it indicates that the Scottish Conservatives will finish second with 23 seats while Labour will win only 20.
A second seat predictor, Cutbot, puts the prospective Conservative seat tally one higher on 24.
A second area of the poll also makes for uncomfortable reading for Scottish Labour.
Leader Kezia Dugdale’s net satisfaction rating has suffered a -16% swing since February. She is now the only Scottish party leader with a net dissatisfaction rating, -11%.
On the contrary, Ruth Davidson’s has a +15% rating while Nicola Sturgeon has a +36% rating.
Net satisfaction ratings:
Across a range of questions the SNP polls ahead of rivals as the strongest party to deal with the issues that matter both to individuals and to Scotland as a whole.
In all but one of these areas, however, the Scottish Conservatives outpoll Scottish Labour.
A greater number of those polled believe that the Tories, rather than Labour, have the best policies for the country, would be best at looking after people like them, have the best team of leaders and are the most clear and united about their policies.
Only in the question of what party understands the problems facing Scotland did Labour tie with the Conservatives.
One of the main issue of the campaign has been the Scottish Parliament’s new powers over income tax.
The poll indicates wide support for the top rate of tax to be raised to 50p. When asked if they would support the move 75% said that they would, with only 22% opposing it.
There was also majority backing for the rate to be raised to 60p. In that instance 60% responded that they support it with 36% opposing the policy.
Support for tax rises narrowed however once the basic 20p rate and the 40p rate were introduced into the discussion. The poll found that 52% would support a 1p increase on these rates with 42% responding that they would not.
However, a strong majority of Scots want tax rates to be the same as in the rest of the United Kingdom, with 64% backing the rates to be no higher or lower compared to the rest of the country.
On June 23 the whole of the UK will go to the polls to decide if Britain should stay in the European Union.
When asked how they intend to cast their referendum vote 66% of those polled said that they would back a Remain vote, with 29% saying that they will vote to Leave the European Union in June. Only 5% said that they were still undecided.
The STV News poll has been meet with reaction from Scotland’s political parties.
A spokesman said: “In our manifesto today we set out our plan to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the richest 1% to pay more so we can invest in our schools and stop the cuts. This poll shows 75% of voters support that policy.
“If people want change, if they want to stop the cuts so we can invest in the future of our economy then they need to give both their votes to Labour. Voting for the SNP and the Tories is a vote for more cuts. Only Labour has a positive plan to stop the cuts and invest in the future.”
Party politician Derek Mackay said: “This is another very encouraging poll for the SNP which shows that our positive message has strong support on the doorsteps – but we take absolutely nothing for granted and are working hard for every vote.
“The SNP is the only party with clear plans to transform the life chances of young people by doubling childcare provision and investing £750m in narrowing the attainment gap, to make the NHS fit for the future with an additional £2bn of investment, and to deliver more and better jobs across Scotland.
“In contrast the Tories want to reintroduce prescription charges, tax students for their education and are putting jobs at risk on the Clyde. Meanwhile Labour have completely lost their way and want to increase taxes on the low paid.
“Only by giving both votes to the SNP can the people of Scotland elect a government and First Minister who will always stand stronger for Scotland.”
The party’s elections and campaigns co-convener Sarah Beattie-Smith said: “The polling trend we’re seeing on the regional vote is encouraging and this Ipsos-Mori poll for STV shows a four point increase for us. Our candidates and teams of campaigners across Scotland are working hard, as Green regional votes will make all the difference to the Parliament Scotland elects for the next five years.
“With Labour having lost their way, the SNP lacking a constructive challenge and a progressive force needed to counter the backward attitude of the Tories, it is clear that voters are moving towards the Scottish Greens. We have a strong track record and will bring bold, fresh ideas into Holyrood to create a better Scotland.
“Across Scotland’s eight regions we are hearing from increasing numbers of voters who are weighing up how to cast their constituency and regional votes. More and more people realise they can vote differently with their two votes and that a cross in the box for the Scottish Green Party will get a strong Green team of MSPs working for a bolder Holyrood and a better Scotland.”
The party’s leader Ruth Davidson said: “This is an encouraging poll for us. We now intend to work harder than ever over the next week to show people we can be the strong opposition to the SNP our country needs. That is the job I want to do for Scotland at this election – so we don’t go back to another independence referendum, but instead get a government that will focus on what matters.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats:
The party’s leader Willie Rennie said: “The Scottish Liberal Democrats have punched well above their weight at Holyrood over the last five years, effectively challenging the SNP government on issues like policing, early years education and civil liberties.
“We are approaching the election with bold, positive proposals that will have a transformational effect. Scotland needs more liberals at Holyrood and we will grow at this election.”
The poll was carried out between April 18 to 25 amongst 1,015 Scottish adults.