Alex Salmond’s new pro-independence party Alba has not yet made a breakthrough with nationalist voters, according to a major poll by Ipsos-Mori, which found only 3% of Scottish National party supporters will back it.
The poll for STV put Scotland-wide support for Alba, which Salmond launched 12 days ago, at just 3% and found that only 4% of SNP voters would support Alba with their second list vote in May’s Holyrood elections.
Those figures suggest Salmond, a former first minister and SNP leader, will struggle to get elected on the north-east regional list, despite fears amongst SNP strategists he may well win a seat due to his residual popularity in Aberdeenshire.
One Ipsos Mori analyst, Emily Gray, suggested the data showed Alba had inadvertently boosted support for the other pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens, to 12%, by reminding SNP supporters they could use their list votes for other parties.
In a significant boost for Nicola Sturgeon, the poll put the SNP constituency vote at 53%, up one point, with the Tories down three to 20% and Labour up three to 18%.
Polling experts regard Ipsos Mori surveys as more authoritative than others because it uses telephone canvassing of randomly-called voters instead of self-selecting panels of voters who sign up to participate in online polls – the method used by a large majority of commercial pollsters.
STV forecast 70 seats for the SNP, enough to give Sturgeon a Holyrood majority, leaving the Tories on 25 seats and Labour on 19. If the Greens secured a uniform 12% on the list, it would have a record 11 seats, but Alba none.
The STV poll also had sobering findings for pro-UK party leaders who have tried to portray Nicola Sturgeon as a politician who prioritises independence over recovering from the Covid crisis.
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, and Willie Rennie for the Lib Dems have both tried to pivot away from constitutional politics onto Covid and domestic policies, but the poll found 49% of voters believed independence and devolution were a priority, with just 15% identifying Covid as one.
Gray pointed out, however, that 62% of Conservative voters believed independence is the main issue, perhaps vindicating the decision by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to make the UK’s future a central issue of his campaign.