SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish National Party has a 42 per cent chance of taking part in the next UK government, according to the latest general election predictions from the opinion poll company Populus.

The SNP is on track to win 48 seats in the Commons on May 7, judging by the latest polls, an eightfold increase on its current number of six.

Populus have worked with Hanover, a public relations firm, to create an “outcome predictor” combining national polling data with constituency-level polls – using statistical modelling to produce probability scores for the most likely result in May.

Their latest model gives the SNP a 42 per cent chance of taking part in the next government, based on current poll ratings. The most likely option would be in combination with Labour – a 26 per cent likelihood – or with Labour and the Lib Dems, at 10 per cent.

The Scottish nationalists have ruled out any kind of deal with the Tories but are open to an informal “confidence and supply” arrangement with Labour where the party would support a Miliband government but not have any ministers in London.

Any such arrangement would be tense given the antipathy between Labour and the SNP in Scotland. Most of the SNP gains in the general election would be at the expense of Labour – and to a lesser extent the Lib Dems – making subsequent co-operation difficult.

The price of such a deal was spelt out by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon in a speech in London on Wednesday when she attacked what she termed the “slavish” fixation with cutting the deficit.

Scotland’s first minister believes that London could increase spending in real terms by 0.5 per cent a year – equivalent to £180bn by 2020 – and still reduce the UK’s borrowing.

Slowing down the austerity programme would be popular “not just with SNP supporters but I’m sure a lot of traditional Labour supporters in Scotland and across the rest of the UK as well,” she argued.

This week’s Populus/Hanover Predictor also suggests a two-thirds chance that there will be 100 or more MPs from outside the Labour and Tory parties for the first time in more than 90 years.

Rick Nye, managing director of Populus, said: “In a week when some of the minor parties have been naming their price for entering a coalition, the Populus/Hanover Predictor shows a two-thirds chance that there will be 100 or more non-Labour and non-Conservative MPs in Parliament after the general election for the first time in more than 90 years.

“Despite the Liberal Democrats being projected to lose half the 56 seats they currently hold, the SNP surge in Scotland, where they are currently on course to win more than 45 seats, added to the 9 projected Ukip, Green and Plaid Cymru MPs and to Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs, takes the non-major party total to over 100 seats on the Predictor’s central projection,” he added.

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