Ruth Davidson: 'Mission critical' for Union after poll finds nationalists to win 'super-majority'

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Simon Johnson
·7 min read
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Alex Salmond's Alba Party is on course to win six seats, according to a new poll -  Shutterstock
Alex Salmond's Alba Party is on course to win six seats, according to a new poll - Shutterstock

Ruth Davidson has warned it is "now mission critical for the future of the United Kingdom" for Unionists to unite around the Tories after a poll showed the nationalists are on course to win a "super-majority" at the Holyrood election.

The former Scottish Tory leader said the survey showing separatist parties together winning 79 out of the Scottish Parliament's 129 seats should "set alarm bells ringing" for every Unionist voter in May's Holyrood election.

Although Alex Salmond's new Alba Party was predicted to win six seats, she said the nationalist "super-majority" was instead "a direct result of the pro-UK vote splitting and some votes going to small parties."

She argued that Unionist supporters uniting behind her party on the regional list vote, as they did under her leadership in the 2016 election, was the only way to stop an SNP majority.

A Tory analysis said the SNP would fall short by one seat if all those planning to vote for George Galloway's pro-UK Alliance for Unity party switched to the Conservatives on the regional list.

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His warning was echoed by James Kanagasoorium, an eminent political analyst, who said that Holyrood's complicated voting system meant that Alliance for Unity is a "Trojan horse for separatism."

He said the party was "just below the magic six per cent" support at which most parties start to win regional list seats but, even if it rises above this threshold, "they will simply be boosting their party at the expense of other Unionist parties."

Mr Galloway dismissed the analysis as "pretty desperate" and tweeted: "The problem is after centuries between them Labour, Liberal and Conservative are just not very popular parties in Scotland. If they were we wouldn’t have to exist."

However, radio footage of him emerged of him arguing that the UK Government should allow a second independence referendum after Brexit and arguing that blocking one would be a "democratic monstrosity."

Speaking in March 2017 on Talk Radio, Mr Galloway said that UK ministers taking the initiative would mean the question on the ballot paper could be changed so that "we can be the Yes, rather than the No."

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A jubilant Mr Salmond said the Alba Party is already "gaining ground" and his message to separatists that backing the SNP on the regional list ballot "is the ultimate wasted vote is starting to cut through."

He said the Alba Party was already recognised as the "standard bearer of the independence super-majority" and it had already overtaken the Liberal Democrats both in membership and poll ratings.

The Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times found Nicola Sturgeon's SNP is on course to narrowly win an outright majority of 65 seats. The Alba MSPs and eight pro-independence Scottish Greens would create the nationalist "super-majority."

An analysis by Sir John Curtice put the Scottish Conservatives on 24 seats, Scottish Labour on 20 and the Liberal Democrats on five. Mr Galloway may become an MSP, with his party winning four per cent on the vote, but none of the other Alliance for Unity candidates.

This result would pile pressure on Boris Johnson to drop his opposition to handing Ms Sturgeon the powers for another independence referendum.

Alex Salmond's Alba Party is on course to win six seats, according to a new poll -  Getty Images Europe
Alex Salmond's Alba Party is on course to win six seats, according to a new poll - Getty Images Europe

Ms Davidson said: “This latest poll should set alarm bells ringing for every pro-UK, anti-referendum voter.

“As a direct result of the pro-UK vote splitting and some votes going to small parties, the SNP are on course for a majority and the nationalists on course for a so-called ‘super-majority’ that they would use to hold another referendum.

“It is now mission critical for the future of the United Kingdom that we unite if we’re going to stop an SNP majority." She urged Unionists to back the Tories in the regional list vote "no matter who you support in your own constituency."

Mr Salmond has said he wants to manipulate Holyrood's complicated electoral system to deliver a "super-majority" for independence, with nationalists voting SNP in their constituencies and for his party on the regional list.

The former First Minister claimed this strategy could deliver a Holyrood chamber with 70 per cent of MSPs backing separation, despite this only being supported by around half the population.

Yesterday's poll showed six per cent backing for the Alba Party, double that recorded in a separate survey last week that suggested it would not win a single seat.

But two-thirds of all voters consider him unfit to stand for election and he has a dreadful person approval rating of minus 49, with Scots trusting him less than Boris Johnson. Panelbase surveyed 1,009 adults in Scotland between March 30 and April 1.

Mr Salmond said: "The reality that voting SNP on the list is the ultimate wasted vote is starting to cut through. And therefore Alba is gaining ground. A week is a long time in politics. And for the unionist parties, the next five weeks shall be a political eternity.”

Former Scottish Tory candidate Ruth Davidson - AFP
Former Scottish Tory candidate Ruth Davidson - AFP

Sir John said Panelbase's results were "good news" for the Alba Party, though a drop of two per cent in support would mean their tally would fall to one MSP.

He said: "Alba may be on the cusp of recording a creditable performance and coming away largely empty-handed.

"Although most of the seats the party could win with a six per cent tally look as though they would be secured at the expense of the unionist parties, our projection suggests that a couple might otherwise have been won by the SNP or the Greens."

He said the Alba Party was appealing to nationalists who want a rapid timetable for a second independence referendum. Up to 70 per cent of its supporters wants another separation vote within a year compared to 48 per cent of SNP list voters.

While 93 per cent of those who backed Alba believe that Mr Salmond is "a fit person to stand for election", only 13 per cent of SNP supporters shared this view.

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Panelbase surveyed 1,009 adults in Scotland between March 30 and April 1, with Alliance for Unity picking up four per cent.

Mr Galloway has urged Unionists to vote tactically in their constituencies for the party best placed to beat the SNP, then back his party on the list. However, the Tories and Labour are both heavily reliant on winning regional list seats.

Speaking on a Radio Forth election phone-in, Mr Ross said the most important finding of the new poll was "that the smaller parties don't have enough support to win any significant number of MSPs but they do have enough support to allow nationalists into parliament.

"And that's my biggest concern, is that if people don't support the tried and tested method to stop the nationalists, which five years ago was the Scottish Conservatives, then they are actually aiding the SNP or Alex Salmond's nationalists to have our parliament once again dominated by another independence referendum."

But Mr Galloway tweeted: "Why would you pass up the chance to put me in #Holyrood rather than A N Other? The status quo cartel is what put us in this mess. Clean it out."

Jamie Blackett, Alliance for Unity's deputy leader, said nobody could doubt Mr Galloway's "commitment to keeping the Union together" and the party wanted a UK Secession Clarity Act establishing the rules for any second independence referendum.

This would define the mandate the SNP would have to win to get a referendum, including the percentage of the vote, the franchise and the wording of the question on the ballot paper.

Keith Brown, the SNP's depute leader, said: "This is the most important election in Scotland's history - every single vote will count, and this poll shows that giving anything less than both votes to the SNP means gambling with Scotland's future."