A LACK of polling data on the SNP leadership race has left the contenders nervous and pollsters frustrated, a data expert has said.

Mark Diffley, who now runs the Diffley Partnership after working as a director of Ipsos MORI in Edinburgh, told the BBC that the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon looked too close to call.

“The truth is we really don’t know,” he said. “For people like me who work with data and look at intelligence and so on through polling, it’s been quite a frustrating experience because there’s just been a bit of a lack of data on what SNP members are thinking through this contest.”

Diffley said there had only been “one proper poll of party members” during the entire race, and that the conclusions which could be drawn from that were very limited.

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He said this was firstly because that poll “was done about three weeks ago so things I think will have changed a fair bit”, and secondly because it didn’t canvas SNP members on second preferences.

Diffley said that the race looked close between Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes, meaning that supporters of Ash Regan could see their second preference votes become “extremely important” when votes are counted.

SNP members have not been given a single vote, but instead are asked to rank their preferred choice of leader from 1 to 3. If no individual candidate gets 50% in the first round of voting then the candidate in last place is eliminated and their second preference votes redistributed.

Asked about the atmosphere in the different camps, Diffley said: “I think there’s one of nervousness, actually. Mirroring what I was saying earlier about the lack of polling data, there is a nervousness. I think there’s a general anticipation that this is a relatively tight race.”

The National: SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf during a visit to a GP training centre at Whitfield Health Centre, Dundee, while on the campaign election trail. Picture date: Tuesday March 14, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS SNP. Photo credit should read:

He said that Yousaf (above) is seen as the favourite, and has the backing of more parliamentarians, but added: “There is an anticipation that when the envelope gets opened on Monday after voting closes, there is just absolutely no idea really, or no significant idea, about which way it’s going to go.”

Diffley also spoke about the “substantial amount of polling” on the SNP race which has looked at the views of the general public.

He said that, due to the views of Labour and Tory voters, the public as a whole prefers Forbes over Yousaf or Regan on every measure.

Diffley said that while “we’ve seen Kate Forbes lean into this data quite a lot”, it didn’t necessarily mean that Tory or Labour voters will switch to SNP if she is chosen as leader.

The polling also suggests that there is a “relatively evenly split” between SNP voters over whether they prefer Forbes or Yousaf, Diffley said.

The BBC show also heard from Alex Apati from the betting firm Ladbrokes. He said that the “odds certainly suggest at the moment that it’s maybe not as close as the polls suggest”.

“Kate Forbes is 3/1 second favourite, Humza Yousaf himself is 1/4. Ash Regan I think is a 28/1 shot at the moment.

“So the odds, while it’s not completely a dead-cert at the moment for Humza, he has actually headed the betting for just over a month now and this is by far the shortest he’s been.”

Apati said that odds were adapted according to where the money’s going, and not according to polling.

He said: “If you take for example when we first opened the market, I think we were quick to make Angus Robertson favourite because that felt like the natural progression and punters definitely agreed with that at the time. I think even right now Robertson is still the third most popular pick in terms of money taken, even though he ruled himself out pretty much after a few days.”

Finishing the interview, Apati said that Nicola Sturgeon was currently on odds of 20/1 to appear on either Strictly Come Dancing or I’m a Celebrity later this year.