POLLING expert Professor John Curtice has given his verdict after the latest polling showed the SNP and Scottish Labour were neck and neck – but independence support holding firm.

Curtice, the president of the British Polling Council, said that “pretty much every seat in Scotland will be a marginal seat” – meaning that there will be everything to play for in the run-up to the next General Election.

He was speaking at an online briefing on new polling for Survation – conducted for communications firm True North – which found the SNP and Labour could both win 24 Westminster seats at the next vote.

Curtice cautioned: "Pretty much every seat in Scotland will be a marginal seat, and therefore a relatively small increase in the SNP lead, and all of a sudden those high expectations for Labour would not look quite so realistic.

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"But equally, if the Labour Party could actually overtake the SNP in voting intentions in Scotland, something they've not yet managed to do according to any poll, then they could indeed, quite clearly be the dominant party so far as Scotland's representation at Westminster is concerned."

He added: “There's certainly is all to play for so far as the representation of Scotland at Westminster at the next General Election with potentially important implications for the overall outcome of the next UK General Election.”

The polling expert further poured cold water on many claims within the Yes movement that independence will need to be the key plank on which the SNP fight the next election.

He said: “The SNP’s commitment to throwing the Conservatives out has to be up front and centre. That’s number one.”

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Curtice added that is because voters who “still believe in independence do not see much chance of it happening soon”, so they are more likely to vote for Labour to remove the Tories from government in the pursuit of shorter-term change.

The suggestion was that the SNP could focus on removing the Tories from power and capitalise on the fact that “people for the most part say they feel they don’t know what Labour stands for”.

Labour have benefitted from the “self-inflicted” issues engulfing the Conservatives – such as partygate and the Liz Truss premiership – and as such their lead is fragile, Curtice said.

“If this Conservative administration could even begin to demonstrate a modicum of economic recovery, a modicum of competence, at least there is a risk that we are back into the potential of hung parliament territory.

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“Of course, if we get back into the potential of hung parliament territory, the whole constitutional position in Scotland then becomes completely different.

“The dirty secret of Scotland politics in the last four years has been – forget all the stuff about a de facto facto referendum, forget all the stuff about a reference to the Supreme Court – the dirty secret of Scottish politics has been that the only realistic way that the SNP were likely to get a referendum anytime soon was if we end up with a hung parliament.”

Curtice said that a slight Tory resurgence south of the Border could actually play into the SNP’s hands if it prevented Labour from managing to win a majority at Westminster at the next General Election.

And at Holyrood

According to seat projections from Curtice, the latest Survation poll would leave a pro-Union majority at Holyrood. He said the SNP would return 49 MSPs, Labour 42, the Tories 17, the LibDems 11, and the Greens 10.

As such, the politics expert said the Conservatives would be “kingmakers”, meaning that it could be “very difficult for anybody to run any kind of stable administration”.

The combined MSPs of the SNP and Greens would total 59 – five short of a majority – while Labour and the LibDems would have 53.

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Tory votes would therefore be needed to get any party over the lines, but it seems unlikely that anyone would want to strike a deal with Douglas Ross’s (above) party.

Curtice said: "If Labour have taken any message from the 2014 independence referendum it is thou does not sup with the devil of the Conservative Party, at least not in open. Which does therefore effectively raise a question.

"Now of course, it's a long way not to the next Holyrood election, but that unless the SNP do recover or unless Labour makes much further progress than they have done so far, we do potentially face a situation at Holyrood in 2026 where it's going to be very difficult for anybody to run any kind of stable administration."