Labour set to take only 10 SNP seats in Scotland, says polling guru John Curtice

Labour has an opportunity to win at least 10 Scottish seats in a general election in 2024 after Humza Yousaf’s election as SNP leader, polling guru Prof John Curtice has said.

Labour figures have told The Independent they hope to win between 16 and 20 SNP seats, buoyed by polls showing that Mr Yousaf is less popular with the Scottish public than his rival Kate Forbes.

A senior Labour source said: “If Nicola Sturgeon can’t deliver independence, then someone of Humza’s abilities has no chance. The proposition is bust and they know it.”

But Prof Curtice said that there are only around 10 seats in Scotland which might fall to Labour – which currently only has one Scottish MP – based on current polls showing Labour on 30 per cent and SNP on 40 per cent.

Writing for The Independent, Prof Curtice said: “While most of Labour’s advance is the result of developments at Westminster – most notably Partygate and the fallout from the Liz Truss administration – it still means that any SNP MP who has less than a 16-point lead over Labour currently looks to be at risk of losing their seat.”

He added: “On the current boundaries at least, there are 10 seats that fall within that category. However, that number could grow quite quickly if the SNP lead over Labour were to fall yet further.”

It comes as the new SNP leader is expected to be voted into the post of Scottish first minister by MSPs on Tuesday afternoon, becoming the youngest person to hold the position and the first from an ethnic minority background.

Humza Yousaf has the “power to govern” without an election, his campaign manager has said as he faces calls from Labour for a snap Holyrood election.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for Mr Yousaf to go to the country in a Scottish parliamentary election, claiming he does not have a mandate.

Rejecting the idea, Neil Gray, Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager and a key supporter, said the new leader already has the “power to govern”.

He told BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday morning: “This is a different situation than what we faced when Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair, for instance, where there wasn’t an election or, indeed, the various Conservative leaders who have been elected by the party over the last few years.”

He added: “I think Humza has a very clear mandate, I think that will be earned by his election today, and he absolutely has the power to govern going forward.”

Humza Yousaf defeated Ash Regan, left, and Kate Forbes (PA Wire)
Humza Yousaf defeated Ash Regan, left, and Kate Forbes (PA Wire)

One of the first big tests for Mr Yousaf is his approach to controversial gender reforms passed by Holyrood but blocked by the UK government in January.

He has repeatedly said he would challenge that move in court and seek to put the bill on to the statute book – although in the latter phases of the SNP leadership campaign he said he would not push ahead with a challenge if legal advice said it could not be won.

Backing his push, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told Sky News the UK move to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill as a “democratic blocker”.

His Westminster deputy Mhairi Black said the legislation is “not controversial”, claiming "a lot of the criticisms of it, I think, are based on misinformation or people not having an idea of what the full picture is”.

Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager said he will have conversations about bringing defeated leadership rivals Mr Forbes and Ash Regan into government. “He will look to utilise the talent across the party in a big-tent approach.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday, Kirk Torrance – a former Alba Party candidate who advised Ms Regan’s campaign – said it would be "sensible” to bring the two former rivals into government.

Dave Thompson, a former SNP MSP who left the party and is now a member of Alba, said the close nature of the result – Yousaf only beat Ms Forbes 52 per cent to 48 per cent – should serve as a “wake-up call”.

He told the BBC: “Half their members and more than half the country don’t agree with them, therefore they’ve really got to start thinking about holding out the hand of friendship, to take Kate and Ash into the cabinet.”