Voting For A New Britain: SNP winning argument but losing support

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The Independent Online
THE SCOTTISH National Party gleaned a few crumbs of comfort yesterday from signs that public opinion was shifting against Nato's Kosovo bombing campaign. The latest ICM poll for The Scotsman newspaper showed support for the bombings waning slightly as backing for a land war increased.

The poll also suggested four out of five Scots supported the SNP's pledge to keep income tax the same rather than implementing Labour's planned 1p cut. But despite this, the nationalists still appeared to be heading for disaster in the vote on 6 May.

Just 29 per cent said they would support the SNP in the first vote, for an individual candidate, and 28 per cent in the second, for a party. The poll predicted Labour would receive 47 per cent of the vote in the first poll and 46 in the second.

Such a result would leave Labour with 62 seats, three short of an overall majority and two more than suggested by the previous poll two weeks ago.

It would give the SNP 38 seats, down four on the previous poll. On the Balkan issue, 44 per cent believed the bombing would help the people of Kosovo, down from 51 per cent in the previous poll.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, was believed to have lost support after dismissing the bombing as "unpardonable folly" but the proportion of voters who said his words would make them less likely to vote for him had dropped from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

Half of those questioned supported the use of British ground troops against the Serbs, up 2 points from 48 per cent last time. The SNP's Treasury spokesman, John Swinney, said the poll showed support for its economic policy.

The party hopes to reinforce this by publishing full details later this week after gibes from Labour that it has not produced a breakdown, as promised in its manifesto.

"The SNP is winning the key arguments in this campaign, which is why we can and must win this election for Scotland," Mr Swinney said. "Labour's penny bribe is hugely unpopular because people know that we cannot protect and invest in our key public services with a London Labour Tory-style tax agenda."

Meanwhile, the focus of the three other parties' campaigns turned to education, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both promising to abolish charges for university tuition fees.

The Scottish Conservative leader, David McLetchie, said the move could be funded through a pounds 40m cut in Scotland's pounds 15bn public funding grant. The Conservatives also hoped to make savings by abolishing local authorities and cutting the administrative costs of schools.

The Liberal Democrats promised to find an extra pounds 250m a year for education and health, while Labour promised to spend pounds 42m from its Comprehensive Spending Review on 5,000 places for under-threes in Community First Steps Centres, which would offer services to both children and parents.