NEW opinion poll statistics have given a big boost to SNP hopes of a major breakthrough in Edinburgh at next year’s general election.
The figures from Populus suggest the party has 35 per cent support in the Capital, an increase of 23 per cent since the last Westminster election in 2010. To make matters even worse for Labour, the Tories emerge in second place in Edinburgh on 25 per cent support – up 5.9 per cent since 2010.
Support for Scottish Labour fell from 37 per cent four years ago to just 24 per cent while the Liberal Democrats are on ten per cent – down 18.5 per cent – and others on six per cent.
The findings are based on a combination of all Populus’s polls for November, broken down by cities. The Edinburgh sample was 349 and the fieldwork was done between November 5 and 27.
The SNP has never held a Westminster seat in the Capital, but party sources now claim they could win four out of the five city constituencies next May.
Edinburgh East, currently held by Labour’s Sheila Gilmore, appears the most vulnerable. It is the only one where the SNP was runner-up in 2010, when it won just over 20 per cent of the vote. Nationalist Kenny MacAskill has held the equivalent Holyrood seat since 2007. The constituency recorded the biggest Yes vote in the city.
The Capital has never been seen as an SNP stronghold.
And in all the other Edinburgh seats, the party will be starting from fourth place.
But the party’s success in winning five out of the six Scottish Parliament constituencies in the Capital in 2011 shows what can happen.
And party chiefs believe the post-referendum momentum which has seen SNP membership soar from 25,000 to 92,000 since September will deliver big wins for them at the general election.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday announced he is mounting his own bid become an MP, standing in the Aberdeenshire seat of Gordon.
Edinburgh Southern MSP Jim Eadie said: “This polling is very encouraging and reflects the nationwide surge in SNP membership; however there is no room for complacency and we will be campaigning hard for each and every vote in all five of Edinburgh’s Westminster seats. “People are putting their trust in the SNP to stand up for Scotland, and ensure that the ‘extensive new powers’ promised by the Westminster parties in the referendum are delivered. A strong team of SNP MPs will hold Westminster to account and ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard and interests are protected.”
In Edinburgh West, currently held by Lib Dem Mike Crockart, the SNP polled 13.2 per cent in 2010. In Edinburgh South-West, where former Chancellor Alistair Darling is standing down, the party took 12.2 per cent.
And in Edinburgh North and Leith, held for Labour by Mark Lazarowicz, the SNP had 9.6 per cent of the vote.
Edinburgh South – where Labour’s Ian Murray narrowly defeated the Lib Dems – had the lowest SNP support in the city at 7.7 per cent. But if the Lib Dem vote collapses, the party could expect to do better next time. The SNP has only just begun the task of selecting candidates for the general election – a process delayed by the referendum and then the change in leadership. The Evening News revealed last month how comedy boss Tommy Sheppard is bidding for the nomination in Edinburgh East, where he faces competition from councillors Mike Bridgman and Alex Lunn.
The party has also left open the option of choosing to back non-SNP pro-independence candidates in some seats.