Heart Poll: SNP Surges Ahead

A poll for Heart FM and the Sunday Times reckons a surge in support for the SNP is threatening to virtually wipe out Scotland's Labour MPs and deny Ed Miliband an overall majority.

Backing for the SNP has grown three points to 48% in the latest Panelbase survey of 1,000 voters - putting it on course to win 53 of Scotland's 59 Westminster seats.

As Labour in Scotland faces its worst Westminster election result since 1931, having dominated the contests since the 1960s, Scottish leader Jim Murphy lashed out at his own party for the current crisis - accusing it of falling "asleep" after September's independence referendum.

Tumbling support for Scottish Labour (down two points in the last three weeks to 27%) means the party can expect to hold just five of the 41 seats it took in 2010 and some Labour sources fear the result could be even worse particular in the event of a high turnout which they expect would benefit the SNP.

The findings raise the prospect of David Cameron being squeezed out of Downing Street even if the Tories emerge as the biggest UK party as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wants to work with Labour to lock him out of power.

The Tories - up two points on 16% - would lose their only MP while the Lib Dems, unchanged on 4%, would be reduced from 11 MPs to just a single representative while Ukip on 3% (-1) and the Greens, unchanged on 2%, would fail to win any seats.

The Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times and Heart FM, conducted over the past week, puts the Scottish National party on course to claim Murphy's scalp in East Renfrewshire - destabilising the party even further just months after he succeeded Johann Lamont as leader.

Other high profile casualties at the hands of the SNP would include Labour's election strategist Douglas Alexander and its shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran.

The nationalists would also unseat Cameron's Scotland Office minister David Mundell and dislodge well known Lib Dems including former leader Charles Kennedy while former SNP leader Alex Salmond would sweep back into Westminster by taking out the Lib Dems in Gordon.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said it was clear that attacks from the main unionist parties were having little impact.

"Scottish Labour are seemingly heading for disaster on May 7," he said. "Far from managing to erode the SNP's lead, it looks as though the party has slipped even further behind, and could well find itself with little more than a handful of seats.

"Nearly everyone who voted "yes" last September seems determined to back the SNP and little that the Labour party has said or done during the campaign has deflected them from that purpose."

In particular, Labour's attacks on full fiscal autonomy, in which public services would be funded from taxes raised in Scotland, appear to have "fallen flat", he said.

While the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies warned last week that the flagship financial policy could lead to a shortfall of nearly £9bn in Scotland's finances by 2020, the poll shows that only 33% of all Scots and just 7% of SNP supporters oppose the idea while 53% of voters as a whole support the idea.

That is in spite of slightly more Scots (27%) believing the policy would make them personally worse off than believe they would be personally better off (24%), with more than not (39% versus 31%) thinking it would make Scotland as a whole better off. Furthermore, many more voters (50%) believe the SNP rather than Labour (18%) is best placed to protect Scotland from UK government public spending cuts.

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