By a Newsnet reporter

The Guardian newspaper's monthly ICM poll makes grim reading for the Liberal Democrats, fresh from their annual conference.  Party leader Nick Clegg's recent apology for the Lib Dem U-turn on student tuition fees appears not to have convinced the public to give the party another chance.

On the face of it, a poll whose regional breakdown shows the Lib Dems on 6%, just 1 percentage point behind the SNP on 7% would seem like stunningly good news for the Lib Dems and anti-independence strategists, and provoke a crisis within the SNP leadership.

Unfortunately however, the regional breakdown of the Guardian poll puts the SNP in front of the Lib Dems by 1% - in the North of England.  When don't knows are excluded the SNP attract the support of 12% of Northern England voters, with the Lib Dems on just 11%.  This is despite the fact that the SNP does not field candidates in England.

The polling result would appear to suggest that more people in the North of England would prefer to throw in their lot with an independent Scotland than trust the Lib Dems.  Although it cannot be stressed enough that regional subsamples in UK wide polls are not reliable, the figures make eye-popping reading for the Lib Dems.


Scotland is traditionally a bastion of Lib Dem support, returning a significant number of the party's Westminster contingent.  However according to this poll Lib Dem support in Scotland has shrunk to a miniscule 2%, lower even than the 3% of Scottish vote share given to UKIP.

48% of Scottish residents polled said that they intended to vote SNP at the next Westminster General Election.  35% declared for Labour (although polling was carried out before Johann Lamont's speech this week), with 12% supporting the Conservatives.

The Guardian poll also revealed that across the UK, only 20% of respondents said Mr Clegg's apology had made them more likely to listen to him in future compared to 69% who said that it made them less likely to listen to him.  Scottish respondents are apparently even less forgiving, with 74% saying they were now less likely to listen to Nick Clegg and only 16% more likely.

Writing in Prospect magazine in August, Peter Kellner of polling company YouGov predicted that on current polls, the Lib Dems face a near wipe-out at the next Westminster General Election, and could see their 57 MPs reduced to a rump of 10.

The beleaguered Lib Dem leader's keynote speech to the party conference in Brighton this week, in which he promised to abolish universal benefits like free bus passes, the pensioners Winter Fuel Allowance and TV Licences for the over-75s, does not seem to have turned the party's fortunes around.  Mr Clegg's speech and his apology was poorly received by many Lib Dems.

Tony Greaves, a Lib Dem member of the House of Lords, told the Guardian:

"Nick Clegg's was almost the worst leader's speech I have heard in nearly 50 years of listening to Liberal and Liberal Democrat leaders.  He has signed his own political death warrant.  It may take some time before he has to go, but what is now frightening is his apparent determination to take the rest of us down with him.  To call Jo Grimond in evidence was a disgrace. Clegg's gunfire is turned on his party."


# Mei 2012-09-30 09:38
The SNP should field candidates in the North of England constituences. A prime example is Berwick which is really a Scottish town.
# Breeks 2012-09-30 09:49
Tee hee! Like your thinking there Mei.

(And just imagine the uproar if he won!)
# Caadfael 2012-09-30 12:26
LOL, I've long said that .. and in the Geordie newspaper too, journallive IIRC.
Cant help but wonder how we'd have fared in the Corby by-election too!
# roger 2012-10-03 23:33
that is a thought....worth persuing.
# colin8652 2012-09-30 10:38
For a short while several years ago was a recovery driver, always taking the opportunity to spread the word I often raised the subject of independence with English motorists I was rescuing and carting home.. . One family from Northumberland I took home would have happily voted SNP and would have happily agreed for Berwick-shire to come back under Scottish rule.
# Murray 2012-09-30 11:05
I read something about Cumbria and another part of northern England to be part of Scotland.. Do you think after Independence, our border will be moved past Carlisle which will make it Scottish??

& I agree Berwick should be part of Scotland
# WRH2 2012-09-30 12:33
Colin, The town of Berwick is in England but Berwickshire is in Scotland. There have been polls that suggest Berwick might like to move back to Scotland but nothing official.
# Alan 2012-09-30 10:38
Some of the area phone codes straddle the English/Scottish border. The respondents who said they would vote for the SNP were likely located in Scotland. The pollsters probably failed to realise they were talking to people in Scotland rather than the north of England.
# Mr Rational 2012-09-30 12:13
Yep, Berwick would love to become a part of Scotland again, I've got to know a few wee rangers fans over the years, and while they are also proud of their Northumberland roots, they would swap in a heartbeat.

Make it part of the negotiations ;)
# Mei 2012-09-30 13:18
Doncaster is Scottish as well, Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster North isn't liking it.
# Breeks 2012-09-30 13:52
Did you see the Time Team dig on Roxburgh a while ago? The gist was, the way Edinburgh and Leith developed was the way Kelso and Berwick were set to develop, until that is Berwick was held by the English. Kelso (Roxburgh)even had a decent castle, and according to Time Team, Berwick was a bigger port than Leith at the time and Berwick was the port where most trade with Europe passed through. The whole Borders suffered the consequences, - and probably still does to an extent, and Scotland probably missed out on Kelso becomming another city.
# Jim Johnston 2012-09-30 16:08
Anything north of the Watford Gap is of little interest to Westminster.... except come polling days. People anywhere north of the Gap are not daft, they know that.
# Leswil 2012-09-30 17:11
I have read through the "Scottish Democratic Alliance" website and they have done a historical investigation into who really owns Berwick.

The records apparently show that Berwick IS Scottish, but it was agreed at the time that borders between England and Scotland were agreed.That Berwick would remain Scottish but would be "administered by England" ( do not know why! ) it seems that several changes were made to the border without Scottish agreement after this time.

Which leaves the border a few miles further north than it should be in the " agreement".

So following that, and centuries have passed, Berwick "became English", but the delving into the past seems to show this was illegal in terms of the originally agreed Boundary.
# Garve 2012-09-30 18:39
Much as I wish the premise of this article was correct, sadly it relies on a misinterpretati on of the data.

Table 2 in
breaks the figures down into.

England (amalgamated)

This is confusing, leading you to believe that England is the total of North, Midlands and South, but if you check the numbers they don't add up that way.

Instead Scotland is included into the North total, with Wales lumped in with the Midlands.

Still depressing numbers for the Lib Dems mind you. In effect we'd need to move the Scottish border down to Derby before they'd have any chance of coming third.
# Garve 2012-09-30 18:59
Couple of other interesting points. The right-wing press are currently full of UKIP rivalling the Lib Dems as the third party in a UK context, possible coalition partners for the Tories in 2014, yet if you total their votes, out of 1,006 they got 31, only 4 more than the SNP got from the 88 votes cast in Scotland.

Of voters who knew who they'd vote for, 48% in Scotland said they'd vote SNP. The stunning bit of this is that the question asked about a 'General Election', where it's normally accepted that the SNP perform much more weakly. AND, this survey was carried out BEFORE Johann Lamont's disastrous speech this week.
# Reprobatus 2012-09-30 19:30
Quoting Garve:
In effect we'd need to move the Scottish border down to Derby before they'd have any chance of coming third.

Coincidentally, Derby was as far south as the Bonnie Prince reached in 1745.
# scottish_skier 2012-09-30 20:04
This was a very small subset for Scotland.

However, it does reflect that the SNP are comfortably ahead of Labour in Scotland even for Westminster voting intention.

The shift of Scottish Labour to the right-wing should increase SNP leads relatively quickly.

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