HALF of Scots don’t know who Kezia Dugdale is as her party continues to struggle against the rising popularity of the SNP, a new poll has found.

The survey showed 46 per cent of people did not know who the Scottish Labour leader is and that figure included 39 per cent of those intending to vote for her party at the Holyrood elections next May.

There was more bad news for Dugdale with the finding that even among Labour supporters she was less popular than First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; some 32 per cent of Labour voters said they liked Sturgeon, compared to just 25 per cent who liked Dugdale.

Sturgeon was overall the most popular politician with 44 per cent of those surveyed saying they liked the SNP leader.

The TNS poll of 1,034 people older than 16 highlights the huge challenge Scottish Labour is grappling with after the party experienced a virtual wipe-out at the General Election in May, losing 40 of its 41 Scottish MPs.

It found that the SNP is heading for a landslide victory at May’s Holyrood elections, with 58 per cent of people saying they would back the party in the constituency section of the vote, up two points on last month. Labour is on course to pick up 24 per cent of votes, up three, with the Tories on 12 per cent and Liberal Democrats on just four.

The poll pointed to a bleak future for the party as it struggles to attract young voters. Just 11 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds said they would be backing Labour next year, compared to 74 per cent who said they will vote SNP.

“Sturgeon has established herself as a popular figure across the political spectrum,” said Tom Costley, head of TNS Scotland. “When we asked the same question about political figures two years ago, during the referendum campaign, her predecessor Alex Salmond was liked by 28 per cent of respondents. She herself was liked by 22 per cent, though she was still emerging from Salmond’s shadow at that time.

“Labour has a mountain to climb in terms of party support, and clearly its leadership is so far failing to achieve recognition and appeal among Scottish voters. Dugdale has only six months to establish herself with voters before the Holyrood election.”

Dugdale was elected Scottish Labour leader in August, defeating rival MSP Ken Macintosh and succeeding Jim Murphy, who stood down in June after the election defeat. She is the party’s eighth leader since devolution.

The survey also revealed that despite a number of high-profile appearances on television, 30 per cent of voters did not know who Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is. There was no such public recognition problems for Nicola Sturgeon with just five per cent saying they didn’t know who she is.

On the regional list, more than half of voters, 52 per cent, plan to back the SNP. Labour is on 25 per cent and the Tories 11 per cent. The Greens and Lib Dems are both on five per cent.

According to Weber Shandwick’s seat calculator, the SNP would return 77 MSPs – up eight, while Labour would be down four on 33, and the Tories down four on just 11 MSPs. The ScotlandVotes website said this would translate as the Lib Dems remaining on five seats, while the Greens would gain one seat to reach three.

Derek Mackay, the SNP Business Convener, said: “This is another welcome poll showing people in Scotland are continuing to back the SNP’s positive, progressive vision for Scotland’s future – and putting their trust in the party to build on our record of delivery and success in government.

“This poll shows that despite the best efforts of Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn, people in Scotland can see that Labour simply hasn’t changed at all – and isn’t even regarded as a credible party of opposition, never mind a credible party of government.”

He added: “This poll is also absolutely disastrous for the Tories in Scotland – fresh from receiving their lowest share of the vote in 150 years in May, this poll shows that the Tory vote looks set to fall even further as people in Scotland continue to reject their regressive, right-wing policies.”

Davidson was liked by 11 per cent of respondents, roughly the level of support for her party, and disliked by 35 per cent. Cameron fared less well than his Scottish counterpart, with 61 per cent disliking the Prime Minister and only 14 per cent liking him.

Corbyn was liked by about twice as many respondents as Dugdale (15 per cent) but was also more disliked (36 per cent) and liked by only 13 per cent of undecideds. Remarkably, in view of Corbyn’s high-profile election and the continuing controversies surrounding his leadership, 21 per cent said they had not heard of him.

The poll was carried out between Friday, October 16, and Wednesday, November 4, and is the latest of TNS’s monthly surveys ahead of the May election.

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Under the leadership of Kezia Dugdale we are asking voters to take a fresh look at Scottish Labour. Scottish Labour is changing and getting back to the radical polices that made so much of a difference to Scotland – like protecting working families from tax credit cuts by making different choices to the SNP and the Tories on tax.

“We are in no doubt that regaining the trust and confidence of the Scottish people will take time but we are confident that with fresh leadership and a focus on cutting the gap between the richest and the rest we can be the party that people in Scotland put their faith in again.

“Scotland needs a radical alternative to an SNP Government who are beginning to make the mistakes Labour used to make. That’s why next May the SNP won’t get it all their own way.”

The National View: Dugdale’s message is not getting through as voters switch off