The latest election forecast for Sky News based on the latest polls in Scotland and the “poll of polls” has the Scottish National Party (SNP) on course to make major gains in the upcoming General Election. The current forecast predicts the SNP will win 53 out of the 59 available seats in Scotland. A result of this level would put them on course to be the third largest party in Westminster and may provide them with a significant role in a future government.
It has been a remarkable period for the SNP. After losing the independence referendum many expected the SNP to fall away. This has been far from the case with the SNP continuing to flourish. They have seen a rise in party membership, have experienced greater TV exposure and are steadily rising in the opinion polls. New leader Nicola Sturgeon appears to be a competent and popular politician and is attracting large audiences and handling the media well.
Outside of the party itself, a strong SNP performance will have the biggest impact on the Labour Party. Traditionally Scotland has been seen as safe ground for the Labour Party and in modern times they have returned a large number of MPs from the region. These latest polls indicate a big shift in Scotland and that the Labour Party can no longer take the support of the Scottish electorate for granted. This will make the chances of the Labour Party winning an outright majority at the next election considerably harder.
Polls are notoriously fickle and as polling day draws nearer many voters could return to the Labour Party in fear of a potential Conservative government. Even so the SNP still remain on course to win enough seats to become the third largest party in Westminster. With the likelihood of another hung parliament, this outcome will provide the SNP with a strong negotiating position. Sturgeon has already ruled out the possibility of doing a deal with the Tories, but there appears a lot of common ground with the Labour Party and a distinct possibility that a deal could be agreed between the two parties. Given the largely expected demise of the SNP following the loss of the independence referendum, this would represent quite a turnaround.
Recent polls have shown the Green Party is on the rise. They are regularly polling around 10% and have moved ahead of the Liberal Democrats into fourth place. They are popular with younger voters and have seen a large increase in membership. So what is behind this rise and can they maintain it?
The Greens can claim with some justification that they are the only anti-austerity mainstream party standing in the next election. The policy may not be economically sound but it remains attractive to a proportion of the electorate. With the Labour Party already signed up to a programme of cuts after the next election this has left room for the Green Party to exploit.
In a world where all publicity is good publicity, the greater exposure received by the Greens has undoubtedly helped them. This was largely created by David Cameron’s insistence that they were invited to the leader’s debates. This is a stance that has definitely helped the Green Party. The Greens have also successfully run a campaign challenging their exclusion from the debates which gained large support from the public and has led to new debate proposals from the broadcasters with the Green Party invited.
The Green Party is a natural home for many protest voters who previously may have voted for the Liberal Democrats and still remained unconvinced by Labour. As seen by the rise of UKIP there is a discontent with the main political parties and therefore significant numbers of voters are looking for alternatives.
The electoral system in this country remains very much against the smaller parties and makes it hard for them to breakthrough in a significant way. They currently only have one MP and may struggle to add to this at the General Election. With greater exposure comes greater scrutiny and this adds a new dynamic and more pressure to the party.
There is a good chance the Green Party will do well in the upcoming election, perhaps even polling ahead of the Lib Dems in fourth place. However, that is unlikely to translate into more Commons seats. The real impact of the Green Party could be that they take voters away from the Labour Party enabling the Conservatives to win more of the marginal seats. In what is already an unpredictable election, it makes calling the election result that much harder again.