LEADING elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice has said “the SNP and Labour remain locked in a close contest for supremacy in Scotland”, as a new poll suggests the two parties will win the same number of seats at the next General Election.

Curtice, a political scientist and professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said there had been no drop in support from voters for independence, but that the SNP still had work to do to fend off a Labour lead.

He said: “The SNP and Labour remain locked in a close contest for supremacy in Scotland at the next Westminster election.

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“Despite there being no sign of any erosion of support for independence, the SNP are having to deal with the backdrop of a relatively unpopular leader and a record in Government with which many of their supporters are unhappy.

“Yet it looks though the cry to vote Labour to help kick the Tories out may not be enough to propel Sir Keir Starmer’s party into a decisive lead north of the border.

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“Both parties still have a lot of campaigning to do.”

It comes as a new survey by Survation for advisory firm True North questioned 1029 people between January 23 and 25, putting Humza Yousaf’s party on 36% of decided likely voters, while Labour is on 34%.

The Scottish Conservatives polled 16% and the Scottish Liberal Democrats 8%, with 7% opting for other parties.

Analysis of the results by Curtice puts the two parties level on 23 seats, a drop from 48 won by the SNP in 2019, while Scottish Labour will jump from the one seat won at the last election.

The Tories, Curtice found, would return six seats and the Lib Dems would win five.

The push for independence remains close, the poll found, with 48% of decided likely voters backing Yes and 52% likely to vote No.

The poll also asked specifically who voters would back if their desire was to ensure there were no Tory MPs in Scotland after the next election.

Some 43% of decided likely voters said they would back Labour, while 41% said they would vote for the SNP.

First Minister Humza Yousaf (below) launched his party’s election campaign last month, saying the SNP’s target is to make Scotland a “Tory-free zone”.

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The survey also looked ahead to the Holyrood election in 2026, suggesting the SNP retains a small lead, but could fall to 44 seats from the 64 won less than three years ago, securing 35% of the constituency vote and 31% of the list vote.

Labour, on the other hand, would win 41 seats – increasing from 22 at the last election – by taking 31% on the constituency vote and 29% on the list vote.

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The Tories would return 22 MSPs – down from 31 – while the Lib Dems will increase from five seats to 12 and the Greens will increase from eight to 10.

Eilidh Whiteford, a senior adviser to True North and a former SNP MP, said her party retains a lead over Labour “despite extremely difficult headwinds”, but momentum building for Labour could result in voters switching sides.

A Scottish Conservatives spokesperson said it is “clear that the Scottish public is growing increasingly disillusioned with the scandal-ridden SNP and their independence obsession – which was highlighted again at the Covid inquiry this week”.

They added: “Voters know that in swathes of seats across Scotland only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP and get the focus back on people’s real priorities – economic growth and improving Scotland’s ailing public services.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie (below) said: “Scotland is being failed by two divisive and incompetent governments – but change is possible.

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“At the next general election, Scotland can boot the Tories out of Downing Street and put Scotland’s voice at the heart of government by voting Labour.

“Labour is taking nothing for granted and we will work tirelessly to earn voters’ trust so we can deliver the change Scotland needs.”

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown (below) said: “It’s great to see the people of Scotland continue to put their trust in the SNP ahead of any other party but we won’t be taking anything for granted and will continue to work tirelessly to earn every single vote ahead of the upcoming election.

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“Westminster isn’t working for Scotland and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has abandoned its principles, choosing instead to act as human shields for the most brutal Tory policies – it’s only the SNP that will stand up for Scotland’s values and only voting SNP can make Scotland Tory-free.

“With Westminster’s Brexit-based economy driving down living standards and hammering Scottish households who are struggling to make ends meet during a cost-of-living crisis of the Tories’ own making, only a vote for the SNP at this year’s election is a vote to choose a better future for Scotland with independence.”