A NEW poll suggests Douglas Ross is set to lead the Scottish Tories backwards in tomorrow’s local elections, as Labour moves up into second place.
On Monday, Mr Ross told the Herald he expected to come second behind the SNP despite controversy over Boris Johnson, partygate and the cost of living crisis.
“I’m really confident that we will maintain second place and we will have a really good result,” he said.
However a Savanta Comres survey for the Scotsman about Holyrood voting intentions found Tory support crumbling as Scottish Labour made gains under Anas Sarwar.
If the results are mirrored in Thursday’s council election – which is difficult to predict because of the STV voting system – it would be a major blow to Mr Ross.
The Moray MP is facing personal criticism over his off-on support for Mr Johnson being a factor in the contest.
After calling for him to quit in January after the partygate scandal made his position “untenable”, Mr Ross said in March the PM should stay put because of the war in Ukraine.
The new poll found 56 per cent of Scots thought his U-turn was wrong, including 21% of Tory voters, with 39% of Scots saying this made them feel worse about him as leader, and 37% saying it made them less likely to vote for the Scottish Conservatives.
However 69% of Tory voters said his U-turn made no difference to their voting intentions.
On Holyrood voting intention, the poll found 46% of Scots would vote for the SNP in their constituency, compared to 25% support for Labour and just 18% backing the Tories.
The seven-point gap is Labour’s biggest lead over the Tories in Scotland since late 2015.
In a sign voters are using their Holyrood votes more creatively, the SNP were much weaker on the regional list vote, with support down to 31%.
The Greens appeared to be benefiting, with their list support at a record 14%, the Liberal Democats are on 10% on the list and 7% in the constituencies.
Alex Salmond’s Alba party were at 3% support on the list.
On support for independence, the poll found 49% of decided voters backing Yes and 51% backing No.
At the 2017 council election, the Scottish Tories had their best result in 35 years, gaining 161 councillors to reach 276, as their share of first preference votes rose from 13.3 to 25.3%.
Labour lost 132 of its councillors, sinking to 262, as its vote share fell from 31.4 to 20.2%.
Scottish Labour hopes to come second on vote share, but fears the vagaries of the preferential voting system could still leave them third on councillor numbers.
Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta Comres, said Labour’s lead was likely due to the ongoing scandals engulfing the Conservative Party rather than a Sarwarled revival.
He said: “Labour’s large lead over the Conservatives in second place of both the constituency and list Holyrood VIS are certainly eye-catching, but as with almost everything related to Labour at the moment, it feels more like a lead more to do with the fortunes of the Conservatives than anything Labour are doing especially well.
“The Conservative’s Westminster fortunes have taken a battering since Partygate, but it appears that the cost-of-living crisis has turned Scottish voters away from the party, and with there unlikely to be any remedy to many voters’ concerns about the affordability of basic items needed to live on the horizon, it’s possible things could get worse for the Conservatives before they get better – including on Thursday in the local elections.”
Savanta Comres interviewed 1,010 Scottish adults online between April 26 and May 3.