Poll of Polls - SNP majority on a knife edge - Greens surging - Alba in trouble

There is a great deal of interest in tactical voting strategies for this Holyrood election amongst independence supporters. There is also a great deal of misinformation being spread about the likely outcome. 

Believe in Scotland is 100% political party neutral and does not support any specific party outcome. Our goal in compiling the poll of polls is to give people the information they need in order to make up their own minds about how to vote.  

However, there is a huge unforeseen problem which is that the polls are not consistent with regards to the new Alba Party which is standing the list. In particular there has been a huge gulf in the voting intentions for the Alba Party between one pollster, namely Panelbase, and all the others.

We have looked at Panelbase’s polling methodologies and any idiosyncrasies that might lead to their data showing double the support shown by the other pollsters. We don’t know what has been causing it and neither does the company. 

However, when one out of seven companies is out of step, on the balance of probabilities we have to say there is a greater chance that Panelbase is overstating Alba support and the others are more likely getting it right.

We cannot be 100% certain and we will not know until we see the final counts, but we would suggest there is approximately a 75% chance that Panelbase has picked up some bubble /house effect and that Alba is not (so far) in reality polling high enough to win any seats.

However, in the fourth and last poll of the month published by Panelbase Alba are at 4%, which brings Panelbase into line with the other pollsters in predicting no seats for Alba.  

We know the SNP is going to win the election, we just can't be certain by how much.

So there are really very few questions of any interest that polling can help us with. These are:

1) How much will the SNP win by and will they have a single party majority?

2) Will Alba win any seats? 

3) And at a stretch will Labour regain second place from the Conservatives?

The answers from the data are Yes but just, no and no.

In order to be able to paint the most accurate picture we have taken all 13 polls published in April by 7 major polling companies and used an average of those polls to create a likely projection in terms of Holyrood seats and regional results.

The Poll of Polls 

During the month of April, there were 13 Holyrood voting intention polls carried out in Scotland by British Polling Council members. Four by Panelbase, three from Savanta Comres, two by Survation and one each by YouGov, Optimum, BMG and Ipsos MORI. For full disclosure, one of the Panelbase polls was commissioned by Believe in Scotland.

Taking the average constituency and list votes of all the parties from those 13 April polls and creating projections suggests this is what the next Scottish Parliament will look like:

The SNP will win by a significant margin with a SNP majority of 1, gaining 65 seats - a massive 39 seats more than the Conservatives on 26, who will come second. The Conservatives will lose five seats but Labour will stay in third place on 24. 

The Greens will move from six to nine seats gaining three on the list and distancing themselves from the LibDems in fifth place who would maintain their current five MSPs.

So according to this poll of polls, the SNP will form a single party majority Government by just one seat so that majority is on a knife edge and could go either way. The Conservatives will hang on to second place by the skin of their teeth and the Greens will be the big gainers. Alba will take no seats, assuming the average/other polling companies are correct and Panelbase’s earlier polling is wrong.

There will be 74 independence supporting MSPs and only 54 Unionist supporting MSPs and this means that when the vote to hold a second independence referendum is put before the parliament it will pass easily. 

An SNP majority is not needed to call a second referendum only a Yes majority in the Scottish Parliament.

What does this mean for independence supporters who want to vote tactically?

Our view is that you should give your vote to the party that best matches your political beliefs and we do not support tactical voting. The AIMs system is fairer than the first past the post system used for Westminster elections and without it an independence majority would never have been elected in 2011. 

However, many people want to know what the best tactical voting options are for Yes supporters.

Going just by the numbers, if you wish to vote tactically and your goal is to help create the best conditions to generate a second independence referendum, then your first/constituency vote choice is very simple - you should vote SNP. 

However, it gets complicated when you have to decide to whom to tactically give your list/regional vote.

List / Regional vote options

SNP: Well, if you support the SNP both votes mantra and believe that it gives the SNP the most bargaining power with the UK government, then that is how you should vote.

They will win the list vote but not by as much as they will win the popular vote across the country. There are two regions - namely South Scotland and Highlands and Islands - where the SNP is likely to need list seats to win a single party majority. If you value an SNP majority then you should vote SNP both votes in those regions.

Greens: If you want a stronger voice in favour of action on climate change in the parliament as well as MSPs that will vote for independence then the Green Party is a good option for your tactical list vote. The Greens are not an SNP second vote party; they take list votes from unionist parties as well. They are effectively guaranteed to win seats and the poll of polls indicates they will get up to nine MSPs, so their net contribution to the Yes majority in the parliament will be positive. But they may cost the SNP seats if the SNP lose any marginal constituency seats or fail to take the ones that they are targeting.

Alba: If you agree with Alba's policies and want to send a message to the SNP on those issues then Alba is a good vote on the list for you to make a statement. However, you must be aware that across the nation it is unlikely that your vote for Alba will return an MSP unless there are significant developments which result in a doubling of the Alba vote in the last few days of campaigning. You may also want to gamble on the low probability that Panelbase had it right in its earlier polls and all the other polling organisations (including Panelbase last poll) are wrong, but even then that would probably result in a maximum of two or three MSPs because Alba's support will be stronger in Glasgow and the North East than in South Scotland and Highlands and Islands. If Alba were to get three or even four MSPs, in all likelihood at least two of those will have come from the SNP so the idea of an Alba-created supermajority is now almost impossible to realise.


If you want to maximise the Yes vote the only way to do that - and have the highest probability of increasing the Yes majority by more than few seats - is to vote Green on the list (but not in South Scotland or Highlands and Islands), which is more likely to generate the highest number of Yes voting MSPs based on this data from 13 polls and the resulting seat projections.

So why has Alba failed to make the breakthrough? Alex Salmond, in the biggest gamble of his political career, attacked Nicola Sturgeon and her government in the Holyrood inquiry and then launched Alba, effectively asking disillusioned SNP voters to give Alba their second vote. If he succeeds (which now looks unlikely) that will be seen as a political masterstroke, shaking the SNP tree and gathering up the falling fruit. If he fails it will be because he poisoned the well from which his party then attempted to drink.  My own personal gut feeling (although not backed up by the numbers) is that Alba’s vote will be 4% or below across the country but in some regions (Glasgow and Northeast) it will get high enough to return one or maybe two MSPs in total.

Promoters of tactical voting are always the most committed to a cause and so will happily offer their list vote for tactical reasons and cannot understand why others are not willing to do the same. Those vast movements of votes on paper, that would generate the perfect tactical result, seem realistic to them when it has little to no chance of success in reality. A significant majority of SNP voters are just not interested in voting for anything else other than SNP one and two.

By Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp