Scottish voters determined to make a difference

Jim Murphy Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, appears to face a tough fight

"A lot of people have always felt it doesn't make much of a difference. That thought of making a difference now has ignited a spark," Claire Thompson, a voter in Glasgow, told me.

There is no question that voters in Scotland are conscious of the sway their decisions could have in the UK general election next month - and are determined to use it.

While party leaders shadow-box over who would vote with whom in the highly likely scenario that no party wins outright, people in Glasgow are weighing up their own decisions.

And what is striking in talking to a mixture of voters across Scotland's biggest city is the long list of reasons people cite for turning away from Labour.

For starters there is the argument, heard in many parts of the UK that were solid for Labour for so long, that the party moved from its roots under Tony Blair, and left behind its core vote.

'Looks defeatist'

Dennis Brady, a lifelong voter, tells me: "I don't think they are catering for the working class. They are going for the middle class. They went that way under Tony Blair - Tony has had his day."

Clearly that is part of the reason why some voters in Scotland have turned to the SNP as a left-wing alternative - but not the only one.

Again, as in the rest of the UK, Scottish voters are not persuaded by the current Labour leadership, even though it has tacked to the left under Ed Miliband.

Mr Brady's wife, Trish, told me that Mr Miliband "has no passion. He looks defeatist before he's even started."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, is having a big impact

Robert Smith, a young father, told me: "I used to like Labour, but they're not confident like they used to be when Blair and Brown were in charge."

But it is not just problems with the Labour leadership or the erosion of its traditional base.

The SNP's arguments for independence are attractive to many, and notably Nicola Sturgeon's leadership is effective.

One voter simply said to me: "I just love Nicola" - not an emotion that is often associated with politicians in 21st Century Britain.

And although it is a debate about a hypothetical situation, the machinations of potential post-election deals at Westminster are starting to have a real impact.

The SNP's offer of working with a possible Labour government, despite the hostilities between the parties, is tempting to some.

Claire Thompson, who voted Yes in the referendum but has decided to vote Labour, said: "The idea of Labour and the SNP working together is quite nice."

This is very difficult for Labour to contemplate and is continually rejected publicly by the party.

Anti-Conservative sentiment

The nationalists' strategy may pull voters to the SNP who might otherwise be tempted to vote Labour because they do not want the Conservatives in charge.

But even some fundamentally anti-Tory voters are starting to believe that the risk of keeping David Cameron in power is worth taking to have a bigger chunk of SNP voices at Westminster.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scottish Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson, are trailing in the polls

Margaret McJury, a Glasgow voter who said she "can't stand" the prime minister, told me: "I don't want Labour either - I just don't have any faith in the main parties."

She said that if the potential cost of having more SNP MPs at Westminster was the Tories staying in charge it would be worth it because "right now, Scotland has nothing at all".

Labour is, probably belatedly, starting to try to fight back in Scotland.

Senior figures in the party believe that it can close the gap if - and it is a big if - they can get their campaign right in the seats that really matter.

But the reasons that voters are willing to cut them adrift is long and varied, which makes it hard for them to fight. It is not one battle but many.

This is not politics as usual anywhere in the UK, and voters in Scotland and the parties know it.

Newsnight coverage of the Scottish leaders debate