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Savanta ComRes – Endgame for Leonard, Ross and Rennie?


‘Yes’ with 16pt lead in independence race as SNP look set for Holyrood majority – Savanta ComRes


There’s much more beyond the headlines in the brand new Savanta ComRes polling. The stand out fact is that ‘Yes’ would win a second Scottish independence referendum by some distance if a vote were held tomorrow, according to a new poll commissioned by The Scotsman.

Chris Hopkins, the Political Research Director at Savanta ComRes commented: “The voting intentions are obviously the most striking parts of this poll, with the SNP on course for an unprecedented second majority government in Holyrood under a system designed to limit such executive power. With the SNP’s likely hegemony in Scotland showing very little sign of abating, all evidence points at this stage towards Scotland voting Yes if they were granted another independence referendum and, on this evidence, it may not be a close end result.”

For both the Unionists and the doom-sayers in the Yes movement that will be a calamity. But there are other big reveals from the polling.

First up it’s pretty huge for the Scottish Greens. As James Mackenzie has noted: “In 1999, Labour elected 55 more MSPs than the Greens did. On this projection Labour would be holding the Greens off for third place by just 8 seats.” Not only that but by this reckoning they have pushed the Lib Dems, who have served two-terms as a party of government in Scotland, into fifth place.

That’s disastrous for the Lib Dems and would surely mark the end of Willie Rennie’s ill-fated leadership.

If it’s bad for the Liberals it’s possibly worse for the Labour Party. Unsurprisingly Richard Leonard’s leadership has failed to make inroads and still trails the Tories in third place. Douglas Ross and Richard Leonard appear not just beaten but beaten into obscurity. From this research around six in ten Scots say they have no opinion of either in terms of their favourability, they are just anonymous despite Ross’s constant media attention.

Keeping just slightly ahead of Labour may be cold comfort for Ross, who was appointed in the disastrous double-act with Baroness Davidson.

Ross’ party’s support is 25 points behind the SNP, with the poll also showing the party could lose eight MSPs in May. That could mean an early red card for the linesman with his colleague disappearing to the House of Lords. If that was the case it might be a full house of resignations for the Unonists parties.

This would be a disastrous result for the Unionist bloc with a thumping SNP majority and a huge thirty-six seat cross-party pro-indy majority.

Other factors are worth noting.

Despite a long time in office and a great deal of criticism Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity remains strikingly high.

ComRes write: “A net favourability of +28, the only politician in Scotland with a significant positive rating, is reinforced by a majority of Scots saying that she is intelligent (73%), strong (71%), understands ordinary people (58%), is genuine (57%) and honest (54%); all metrics where she greatly outpolls her Conservative and Labour rivals.

Sturgeon even seemingly comes out okay from the Salmond Inquiry. Although she is overall 17 points less trusted after this episode than she was before, Alex Salmond himself is 44 points less trusted, and Sturgeon outpolls both her party (-23% net trust) and the Government (-28% net trust).”

Worse for the Unionist parties the SNP retains trust across a wide portfolio of policy issues, suggesting that the party’s appeal goes far deeper than constitutional issues.


This makes things difficult for the Conservatives and Labour and Liberals.

If these results were to be born out in May it may well mean the end of the line for Richard Leonard, Willie Rennie and Douglas Ross. If this win was to be achieved on the back of a clear and strong manifesto commitment, as it surely will be, the momentum towards a second referendum, and to win that would be completely unstoppable.


Methodology: Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,013 Scottish adults aged 16+ online between 11 and 15 December 2020. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of Scottish adults 16+ by age, gender, region, and past voting behaviour.


Comments (22)

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  1. montfleury says:

    “the momentum towards a second referendum, and to win that would be completely unstoppable”

    Why? Surely the opposite is true? The more likely a Yes vote is the less reason there is for London to allow a vote. They’re not our friends and they don’t love us and they don’t want to lose a third of their land and half their seas.

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      Your stated concerns are understandable and familiar; as has been discussed at this site before, to a great extent it’s a question of whether Westminster would be willing to be seen baldly denying Scotland a referendum when that is clearly desired and called for by its own people. Not impossible, you say–and you may be right. That’s a real question, one that will continue being discussed here.

    2. Well that’s true, but they are also vulnerable to pressure and dissent from within their own country and from ours. The idea of us having no agency, no power and no capacity is a strangely disempowering one when it comes from within our own ranks. Anglo-Britain, high on the supply of its own Brexit propaganda may well think it better rid of us. We are in – to repeat the cliche – unprecedented times – and if you look at Anglo-Irish relations, and the treatment of NI, and the rise of Welsh nationalism there are wider forces at play than just us.

      The logic of your argument might be that we want to have Yes polling lower?

      1. Michael says:

        Mike, time and again you assume that increasing support for independence in the polls, along with, an increasingly centralising, cult-of-personality, SNP leadership, which increasingly promotes a corporate friendly independence while also point blank refuses to outline a strategy to get there, is somehow an unmitigatedly good positive development. Anyone who raises concerns is labelled an [add your undefined derogatory slur here]. It’s deeply worrying that your level of “analysis” is so shallow!

        1. Thanks Michael. I disagree with your analysis of my analysis. I am reporting the facts of recent polling. I have a raft of criticism of the SNP and their leadership. I called today for the sacking of Joe Fitzpatrick. Its possible to be both critical and celebrate the massive shift that we’re seeing in Scottish public opinion.

          Are we not to be positive about shifts to Yes? I’m confused.

      2. Daniel Raphael says:

        I confess that I don’t see where that surmise comes from, Michael. In any case–I’m all for Scotland’s independence, referendum if you can have one, and England’s acceptance to be forthcoming. As I read various articles here and comments appended thereto, I see people indicating their own uncertainty about what Westminster would do if… I’m no exception, and that was the gist of my previous comment.

        1. Wul says:

          “I confess that I don’t see where that surmise comes from, Michael.”

          It comes from him being a troll. He just pops up to undermine the credibility of this site and the movement towards Scottish self-rule. (In my analysis)

  2. Dougie Blackwood says:

    The thing that is seldom mentioned is the case coming forward in the court of session. Does Scotland need a section 30 order? We are the United Kingdom under the treaty of the union of parliaments. That treaty is not written in stone; if the people of Scotland, by a democratic mandate demand a referendum on independence and an end to the treaty than it cannot be right that the other party can prevent that happenning.

    I suspect the Scottish government think that case will be lost in court and that is why they do not support it, indeed they appear to throw obstacles in its way. I am no constitutional lawyer but I would be surprised if the court would be able to happily say that London, by weight of English parliamentry numbers, can do what it likes in Scotland. There were two equal parties that agreed to the treaty of union back then; we can argue about the authority and the bribery that saw the Scottish parliament vote itself out of existance but it was the government of Scotland and the government of England as equal partners that agreed to unite not the people of Scotland as they were never asked. Now we have 533 English and 59 Scots MPs where the Scots are routinely ignored. The same can also be said of the Welsh, and the Northern Irish.

    I look forward to hearing the outcome of the case in the not too distant future.

    1. Joe Rocks says:

      Dougie ,
      I have a bit of a problem with this court case ,I think Independence and the constitution is a political issue and one that should be solved by political means.

      If the SNP stand on a clear manifesto commitment to hold an Independence referendum and they win a majority of seats and possibly votes too .I don’t think any court comprised of a few judges has the moral right to declare that referendum illegal .

      I think it’s an important principle the right to decide how Scotland is governed is one for the people who live here not the choice of Boris Johnson or any court

  3. Axel P Kulit says:

    I am waiting for a series of polls that are over 53% YES with don’t knows included. Maybe that is too much to hope for.

    But the current trend is encouraging.

  4. Geoff Bush says:

    Mike for me the key factor not included in the prediction of Holyrood seats is the effect of the ISP or another single list-only pro-indy party. As only Green + unionist party seats are predicted from the list (ok 1 SNP) then ISP can only take seats from them, which makes the result even worse for the unionist parties. Personally I would rather see fellow indy-supporting MSPs in Holyrood than unionist ones.

    1. Dougie Blackwood says:

      The idea of an Indy supporting list only party standing for Holyrood other than the Greens is attractive and sensible. If it is to work it will need to be only 1 party under one banner and it would need to get a substatial personality to lead it; preferrably not an ex-SNP spear carrier or ex minister. McIntyre-Kemp, Lesley Riddoch or the common Weal man whose name escapes me would be ideal. If we have more than one list party it plays to Better Together and against the Greens.

    2. HI Geoff – their support is so low they are not even registering. There is only a few months away to the elections. With no high profile members and no discernible policies its difficult to see how this is going to work. Plus it would seem to solve a problem that doesnt exist. Under this polling a large pro-indy cross party majority is guaranteed.

      1. Geoff Bush says:

        They do have a few months still to get on the radar, I agree that the odds are against this but these days parties can go from start-up obscurity to significant players in a relatively short time, when did we first hear of Macron ? It may not take long to enlist a household name as leader, and they are showing signs of being able to communicate the D’Hondt system very well.

        1. What is the problem you think this will solve?

          1. Geoff Bush says:

            3 problems addressed Mike .
            1. Fewer Britnat MSPs in Holyrood pre-independence where they don’t really have much of a role to play
            2. Countervailing power in Holyrood to balance the SNP’s apparent lack of urgency to achieve independence
            2.1. The SNP should realise that they can’t kick the ball as far as 2026 – because ISP would stand constituency candidates against the SNP in 2026
            3. The ability to achieve the two thirds majority to dissolve Scottish Parliament and call a plebiscite election should that not already have happened in 2021.

          2. I dont think the ISP are a credible vehicle to achieve any of these aims.

            I’m not sure that somehow purging the parliament of ‘Britnat’ MSPs is a useful aim.

  5. James Mills says:

    ” …will mark the end of Willie Rennie’s leadership ”.

    Willie Rennie is a leader ?

    I thought he was a guy who was paid to act the fool at each First Minister’s Questions to lighten the mood !

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      A<h, Willie Rennie is no a bad guy, give him a break.
      He's the sort of guy that would get off his arse to run a half marathon to raise money/awareness to help with mental health issues.

      And in breaking news, East Fife 5, Forfar 4. (that is of no relevan<e, whatsoever). But, whit the he<k. Happy Thursday. Sair elba, mair sna on the way.

  6. Andrew Taylor says:

    Snp are the only answer to Westminster government Fallings nicola sturgeon is the right person to free Scotland and get independence

  7. David Allan says:

    ”If this win was to be achieved on the back of a clear and strong manifesto commitment, as it surely will be, the momentum towards a second referendum, and to win that would be completely unstoppable”.

    It’s the probability of the clear and strong manifest comittment that concerns me – Nicola’s gold standard route seem her only plan. Borus will never allow any threat to the UK and ironically as polls show a rise in indy support the likelihood of an S30 order becomes a more remote prospect.

    IMO – The Manifesto must be in form of plebiscite.

    It would also be nice to see the SNP not request vote SNP 1 and 2. And suggest that regional tactical support be permitted to ultimately reduce unionist list members. I know this is unlikely I suggest it as we are so close now it’s time to get clever and use system to advantage of Independence and not just SNP.

  8. Robert Jacobs says:

    Hi Mark, given that the SNP are only projected to pick up one seat in the Regional vote, would it not make sense for the SNP to stop the “Both votes SNP” mantra and ask Indy supporters to use their Regional vote for the Scottish Green Party? Given that in the projections above, the Greens are only a few seats behind Labour then the Greens being supported by SNP voters could pick up more MSP’s move ahead of Labour and challenge the tories for second place? It would also increase the number of Pro Indy MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament.

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