KEIR Starmer’s Labour Party are poised for a takeover in Westminster at the next General Election - but will Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation provide the boost they want it to?

When the First Minister announced her decision to step down as leader of the Scottish Government and SNP, pundits quickly moved on to who the beneficiaries are of Scotland’s leading party losing its most popular leader.

And the answer was undeniably Labour - as the Tories are languishing in the polls, at the precipice of being booted from power after 12 years of government, numerous leaders and piles upon piles of scandals.

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With successive polls putting Labour miles ahead of the Tories, and one even suggesting the SNP could become the second-biggest party and the official opposition in the House of Commons after a total wipeout of blue-ribboned MPs, do they really pose a threat to the SNP and their incoming leader?

While much of course depends on who takes over from Sturgeon, Labour under Starmer have consistently moved the direction of party policy towards the centre and even agreed with the Tories on certain areas - Brexit in particular.

Labour have not yet presented the UK with a progressive, outward-thinking plan to fix over a decade of Tory austerity and public services, instead, they are simply waiting on the sidelines and watching the ruling party tear themselves apart.

The National: Sarwar's popularity ratings have remained steady during his time as Scottish Labour leaderSarwar's popularity ratings have remained steady during his time as Scottish Labour leader

As polling expert John Curtice put it in a recent blog post: “In truth, to date Scottish Labour has largely appeared to be riding on the coattails of the Conservatives’ misfortune at Westminster.”

If Labour do not offer a distinctive vision to Scottish voters that isn’t Tory-light and continue to ignore the constitutional elephant in the room, then it could be argued that they will only alienate themselves from the electorate north of the Border further.

And while Sarwar’s popularity pollings have stalled during his time as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Starmer’s have seen some significant changes in the past 15 months.

An Ipsos poll of Scottish voters from December 2022 had Starmer with a 37% satisfaction rating, while 50% of respondents said they were unsatisfied with how he is taking on the role of Labour leader. The same firm had Starmer’s satisfaction rating at 28%, unfavourable at 27% and neither at 30% two years before.

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So while Starmer’s popularity may have grown, slightly, it appears Scottish voters are much less undecided on their view of the Labour leader overall. And in comparison, no Unionist leader currently operating in the UK political sphere has anywhere close to Sturgeon’s popularity ratings, even when they themselves took a slight dip.

Labour members are likely rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a boost to the party and hope they can scoop up some floating voters now that Sturgeon has exited the stage. While she was a skilled politician, the electoral prowess of the SNP campaign machine should not be underestimated. 

And, if they continue to ignore the 45%+ of the Scottish population who back Yes, a steady figure in subsequent polls no matter how far high they rise or fall - and Starmer has already said he wouldn’t grant a Section 30 order to allow an independence referendum to go ahead - then Labour won’t be returning as many Scottish MPs as they think. At this point, though, anything would be better than one.