HOLYROOD WEEK - The SNP paradox

NO parliament business this week, the debating chamber is silent and the committee rooms empty.

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However, the latest poll on independence and leaders' approval ratings has provided much for the parties to think about and so it should.

The poll showed a slight narrowing of the gap between Yes and No and some interesting age and gender snippets.

What it showed yet again however, is something that should concern Labour in Scotland.

Approval of the SNP, nearly two years after the election and nearly six since they formed a government is still high and indicates they are a good bet to win the next election.

Ratings for Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are also remarkably high for incumbents of the highest offices mid-term.

All this despite the absence of a matching appetite for their ultimate aim of Scottish Independence.

What does this tell us about the opposition?

It tells us that Scotland is still a long way off from thinking Labour is ready to form a government again at Holyrood.

In 2007, Salmond had his top team of Sturgeon, John Swinney, Kenny MacAskill and co, a team pretty much still in place with a few more added, ready to step up when needed with Derek Mackay and Humza Yousaf most notable.

When Labour took over from John Major's Tories at Westminster in 1997 there was also a team who were seen as a government in waiting. Tony Blair, with Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, David Blunkett leading the pack, had established trust and won confidence sufficient to be given power.

The point of this is the SNP success is not just down to Alex Salmond as some would have us believe.

And while Labour can be quietly pleased with Johann Lamont's ratings of +8% and with some of her exchanges with the First Minister, she needs a recognisable, credible front-bench team and a clear identity, but the public does not yet see it.

We are likely to see the strange situation of the SNP and Yes campaign lose the independence referendum yet two years later win a third Scottish election.

All this at a time when the Tories in Westminster preside over rising unemployment and are racking up a higher debt bill than the one they use as an excuse to cut welfare budgets hitting the poor.

You would expect this to translate to increased support for Labour in Scotland. The fact it has not shows the party still has a problem.

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