New polling data points to bloodletting of big names from Scottish political life

Ashcroft’s analysis of constituencies makes depressing reading for top Westminster faces

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Indy Politics

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, the former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, and current Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran are expected to be among the high-profile politicians forecast to lose their Westminster seats by new polling data published today.

The highly-anticipated analysis of Scottish constituencies by Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative deputy chairman, will back up recent polls which point to a major rewrite of Scotland’s political map. Labour’s 56-year dominance of general elections north of the border is forecast to end with a historic shift to the nationalists in May. The new poll predicts the demise of the frontline careers of many of Scotland’s current big-hitting pro-union politicians.

However, the power of the MPs Scotland will send to Westminster could be much less than their predecessors after William Hague, the Commons leader, yesterday outlined a future Tory government’s plan to give English MPs an effective veto on English-only legislation. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats called the Hague plan “rushed” and have demanded a full constitutional inquiry.

The Ashcroft analysis is the first this year to focus on individual constituencies rather than on percentage forecasts based on limited samples of voters’ intentions. The results were described last night as a “humdinger” by Lord Ashcroft himself.

 

A recent poll by Strathclyde University suggested the SNP would win 45 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. Scottish Television (STV) in October last year pointed to Labour facing “annihilation”, winning only four Scottish seats.

Advisers to Jim Murphy, the recently elected Scottish Labour leader, told The Independent they did not expect the Ashcroft numbers to significantly differ from other polls which had predicted calamity for Labour in Scotland this May.

One close aide said: “This poll may in fact do us a favour, because Scotland’s voters still seem to think they can vote SNP and avoid a Tory government. The reality is different. The largest UK party will form the next government in Westminster – that message needs to get through.”

The poll will showing that five months after last September’s independence referendum, the defeated YES campaign has grown its support.

Westminster’s reaction to the referendum’s fallout continued yesterday when Mr Hague announced plans to limit the power and direct involvement of Scottish MPs in matters identified as affecting only England.

But the absence of both Labour and Liberal Democrat support for the Hague plans means nothing will happen till after the general election.

Even backbench Tory support could be limited. Under the Hague rules, the Speaker would potentially identify bills affecting only England, or England and Wales. English and Welsh MPs would then meet without Scottish MPs being present to consider the bill, and only at the final voting stage would Scottish MPs take part.

John Redwood, the former Tory cabinet minister who has been leading the fight for an England-only chamber within Westminster, said the Hague plans would give the SNP “the chance to wreck English-only laws” because of the retention of Scottish MPs right to vote in the final stage of legislation.

“Far from keeping the union together, “ said Mr Redwood, “it does more damage. It is a battering ram against the union for nationalist MPs.”

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