The Scottish National party is on course to be the largest group in the Scottish parliament after May elections, although it may struggle to secure an overall majority, according to a poll of polls by the Financial Times.
The FT is tracking opinion polls about voting intentions ahead of the elections to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments on May 6.
These elections could have a big influence on the future shape of the UK. Notably, the pro-independence SNP, led by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, intends to demand a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK if it wins next month.
Analysts said the move on Friday by former first minister Alex Salmond to launch a new pro-independence party called Alba could deprive the SNP of an overall majority in the Scottish parliament after the elections. The FT poll tracker has yet to take account of Alba.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson is opposed to allowing a Scottish independence referendum.
The FT poll of polls meanwhile suggests the Labour party is likely to be the biggest group in the Welsh parliament but it may find it difficult to secure an overall majority.
Members of the parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff are elected using a voting system based partly on proportional representation.
Constituency representatives are elected using the first past the post voting system. Additional representatives are elected based on the proportion of votes a party secures in a region comprising several constituencies. The hybrid voting system used in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments presents a high bar for a party to secure a majority of seats.
The constituency vote
Opinion polls for the 73 Scottish parliament constituencies show the SNP and Conservatives narrowly ahead of their results at the last election in 2016.
The SNP, which gained power in Scotland in 2007, will be targeting Labour-held seats such as Dumbarton, East Lothian and Edinburgh Southern. The SNP will also be hoping to seize the marginal constituency of Edinburgh Central from the Conservatives.
The regional list vote
A further 56 members of the Scottish parliament are elected from party lists drawn from eight regions.
The latest polls put the parties in a very similar position to the last election. The surveys suggest the Greens might do well enough to ensure there is a pro-independence majority in Edinburgh even if the SNP fails to achieve one on its own, although this does not factor in Alba’s impact.
Scotland is evenly split on its key constitutional question, with polls showing supporters and opponents of independence almost exactly level. Backing for Scottish independence increased during 2020 and averaged above 50 per cent for a time before dropping in recent months.
Analysts said the fall in support for independence may be partly due to the UK’s successful coronavirus vaccine rollout. A bitter rift between Sturgeon and Salmond could also be a factor.
The constituency vote
In the Welsh parliament, or senedd, 40 of its 60 members are elected from constituencies.
The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru are polling better than their results at the last election in 2016 and analysis that assumes a uniform swing in the vote suggests they could make several gains at Labour’s expense.
Labour has wielded power in Wales since devolution took effect in 1999 but its chances of securing a majority in Cardiff at the May 6 election look increasingly slim.
The regional list vote
The remaining 20 members of the senedd are elected from party lists drawn from five regions.
Labour and Plaid Cymru are polling ahead of their results at the 2016 election, and could gain at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.
With the UK Independence party and Reform competing for pro-Brexit votes, and both groups languishing at about 3 per cent in recent polls, there is room for Conservative gains.
But polls also show rising support for Abolish the Welsh Assembly, which is likely to give the anti-devolution party enough votes for seats in the senedd.
Although far below Scottish levels and based on limited polling, support for Welsh independence has gradually increased since 2015, with a leap recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The FT’s polls of polls combines all voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters ahead of the 2021 elections. The trend line uses only the most recent poll from each pollster and weights them according to when they were conducted.
The FT’s poll of polls for the Scottish parliament election is based on the most recent surveys from six pollsters.
Polling for the Welsh parliament election is less extensive than what is available in Scotland. Our current polling average is based only on the Welsh Political Barometer conducted by YouGov (with fieldwork completed on March 19) and ICM’s St David’s day poll (completed on February 21).