Election Matters: Why does Scotland matter so much in this election?

Does Scotland matter in this election? In a word, yes. Scotland is a key contest in this election. ITV News' election analyst Professor Jane Green explains why.


Since the devolution, when Scotland received its own parliament, Scottish politics now plays out in the parliament in Holyrood and the Westminster parliament, with 59 Scottish MPs.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) have garnered the largest level of support in the country in both the general and Holyrood elections for over a decade now.

The SNP seemed unbeatable as a party for a while. However, their dominance is a relatively recent development.

It wasn't until 1999, with the establishment of a devolved parliament, that the SNP could truly showcase its governing abilities.

Up until then, Labour was the most dominant political party in Scotland since the 1970s.

The 2024 election now sees Labour's fight to take back Scotland, which could help Labour either win or increase their majority in Westminister.

Labour's seats historically included a key portion from Scotland, but in the last decade, that has decreased.

This graph shows the seats Labour won in Scotland at the top of each bar, and the whole bar shows the number it received overall.

If Labour gets over the dashed line, it wins a majority in parliament.

In 1997 and 2001 Labour would have won with ease, without the need for securing Scottish MPs.

But in 2005, the Scottish Labour MPs made the difference. We see that Labour has performed poorly in Scotland in the last three elections.

Why has the SNP been so successful?

SNP has been so successful in Scotland due to Labour's struggling electoral performance and the issue surrounding Scotland's independence from the UK.

After the Independence Referendum in 2014, the SNP succeeded in winning a huge amount of support among Scottish voters who supported independence.

Voters in favour of Scottish Independence surged behind the SNP in the lead up to the 2015 General Election. Credit: British Election Study

This chart displays the Scottish public who voted "yes" in the independence referendum and their voting behaviour in the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

"Yes" voters surged behind the SNP. "No" voters, on the other hand, were split between other parties.

Could Labour win in Scotland on July 4?

Labour appears to be recovering in the polls in Scotland. Credit: What Scotland Thinks)

Labour's recovery in Scotland is noteworthy. The polling indicates a broader Labour resurgence across the UK as the Conservative government faces various political challenges leading to substandard results in the polls.

Additionally, the SNP has been troubled by its own scandals and difficulties.

This chart shows government approval ratings from Scottish voters in May 2021 versus May 2024. Credit: British Election Study

Whereas Scottish voters gave a high approval rating of their government in 2021, and a fairly poor rating to the UK government, they now do not rate either government very highly at all. That is the perfect scenario for Labour to make gains.

What now?

Things are very close in Scotland. There are lots of tight races, lots of tactical voting still happening around independence, and Labour have only just managed to get a lead in the polls.

Scotland is on a knife-edge now, and it really matters in this election.

Have you heard the latest Talking Politics? Every day in the run-up to the election Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…