IF you got your news solely from the mainstream English media, you would think the Scottish National Party ( SNP ) are doomed.

Dramatic headlines in the past few months have variously proclaimed that the party faces an “implosion” (The Guardian), a “complete collapse” (The Sun) and even “extinction” (The Spectator). Labour’s sizeable victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West seemingly lends weight to these claims. Yet these bold statements simply do not stack up when you look at the reality of public opinion in Scotland.

Indeed, the truth is that despite a whirlwind few months – and a single by-election loss in unique circumstances – the SNP remain in a strong position.

While reports of an “implosion” are somewhat premature, it is true that support for the SNP has declined in the past year. As recently as January, the average of polls showed the SNP leading by a margin of 13 points – enough to give them 47 of Scotland’s 57 seats in the UK Parliament under the new boundaries.

Things quickly changed. The SNP’s projected popular vote margin has halved, with the party now leading Labour by 7 points – which would give Humza Yousaf’s party 36 MPs (-12).

One of the seats lost to Labour would be the new constituency of Rutherglen, which the SNP recently lost to Labour in a by-election. Not only that, but the SNP’s decline is also reflected in voting intention for Holyrood; their share of the constituency vote is now 41%, down from 45% in January.

This decline in support extends to the party’s leadership. First Minister Humza Yousaf currently has lower approval ratings than his predecessor and his main opponent Anas Sarwar. Yousaf’s net approval is -13, compared to the neutral net rating (44% approve, 44% disapprove) enjoyed by Sturgeon in January.

But this decline, while notable, still leaves the SNP in a dominant position. Polls suggest the party would win 63% of Scotland’s seats in Westminster (36 out of 57), 79% of Holyrood constituency seats (58 out of 73), and would remain in government in co-operation with the Greens. Indeed, within the past few months, the SNP have recovered in Holyrood polling to a remarkable degree; they have gone from being neck-and-neck to polling well enough to win 59 seats to Labour’s 32, enough to easily form another partnership with the Scottish Greens, who would win 10 seats.

Not only that, but the SNP’s defeat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West – while large – was not unexpected. Labour won it in 2017, it remained a marginal seat in 2019, and the SNP are somewhat lower in popularity than in the last General Election. When combined with mass pro-Labour tactical voting by Conservative Unionists, this was enough to deliver an undeniably impressive win for Labour – but it does not change the national picture, which continues to favour the SNP.

As for approval ratings, Humza Yousaf’s approval rating of -13 is actually fairly good for a governing party that has been in power for 16 years. By comparison, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – whose party has been in power for 13 years – currently has a net approval of -36 in Scotland. Unlike Sunak, meanwhile, Yousaf leads in “Best First Minister” polling by a clear margin against both his main opponents.

There is also an additional aspect to the shifts in Scottish politics, which is that support for independence has not gone down – if anything, it has actually increased. In December 2019, 47% of Scots said they would vote for independence. That figure is now 49% (+2), meaning the support base for the SNP remains as strong as it has ever been. Labour have not surged in polls by convincing Yes voters to support the Union with Britain; instead, Labour have narrowed the gap with the SNP by gaining enormous numbers of votes from the Unionist Conservative Party.

YouGov data, for instance, shows Keir Starmer’s party surging from a mere 18% among “No” voters at the last General Election to 37% (+19pts) in September 2023 – making them the most popular party amongst Unionists.

Labour have won over a few Yes voters, but not very many – they’re only up five points. Instead, most of the Yes voters that the SNP have lost have gone to smaller parties like the Greens.

In short, claims of an imminent SNP collapse are unrealistic. Yousaf’s party remains the dominant political force in Scottish politics, polling well enough to retain both a majority of Scottish MPs and a working majority – with the Greens – in Holyrood. Support for independence remains very high, with most “Yes” voters still backing the SNP; the main electoral story is Unionists switching from the Tories to Labour.

All in all, the SNP remain well-placed to win both the next UK Parliament election in Scotland and the 2026 Holyrood contest. The main story of 2021-23 is that Labour have won over massive numbers of Conservative Unionists – and while that might help gain them a dozen or so seats from the SNP, such as Rutherglen and Hamilton West, it is not enough to actually form a government in Holyrood. For now, despite a Labour revival, Scotland is still the SNP’s to lose.

Ell Folan is the founder of Stats for Lefties, a left-leaning statistics website