SNP 'could take safest Labour seat and oust Charles Kennedy'
The SNP could win the safest Labour seat in Scotland at the general election and oust former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, a new poll by a Tory peer has suggested.
Polls in eight Scottish constituencies carried out by Lord Ashcroft predict that six could go to the SNP.
They include Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath where the former prime minister Gordon Brown is standing down.
Mr Brown had a majority of 23,000 in the Fife seat at the 2010 election.
An SNP victory is also predicted in Edinburgh South West, where the former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together campaign against independence, is retiring from Westminster.
By Brian Taylor, political editor BBC Scotland
What has happened? Several factors could be contributing. One, a feeling perhaps that Labour has been tactically outfought by the SNP in sustaining community links - the hard, daily graft that brings eventual success.
Two, perhaps partial punishment for Labour in working class areas for combining with the Tories in Better Together. Three, the relative popularity of the Scottish Government, despite Jim Murphy's more vigorous efforts to hold Ministers to account.
And, four, the aftermath of the referendum. It seems likely that those who formed the 45, those who voted for independence, have undergone an energising process.
Rather than slump into despond, they have been enlivened by the very process of intense political engagement with its emphasis upon Scotland's interests.
Which has resulted in a substantial section of the population in Scotland continuing, even at this UK General Election, to ask who best speaks for Scotland, rather than focusing primarily upon the issue of who should be chosen to enter Downing Street. In short, to think Scot, rather than Brit.
Charles Kennedy is predicted to lose to the SNP in Ross, Skye and Lochaber, where he has been the MP since 1983 and is defending a majority of 13,000.
The only Conservative seat in Scotland - Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale - which is held by the Scotland Office minister David Mundell, is said to be too close to call with the SNP and the Tories both on 34%.
There is further bad news for the Tories in the key target seat of Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine, where the poll suggested the SNP enjoy a 14% lead.
The other Labour seats apparently at risk of falling to the SNP are Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock and Dumfries and Galloway.
Overall Lord Ashcroft suggests that the general election could end in a dead heat with 272 seats apiece for Labour and the Conservatives and the SNP potentially holding the keys to Downing Street with more than 50 MPs.
The Liberal Democrats could be reduced to a single Scottish seat, Orkney and Shetland, where the Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael is the MP.
In his blog, John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the latest polls suggest that the SNP surge is not confined to areas which voted for independence last year.
Prof Curtice said, on average, the SNP vote is estimated to be 26 points higher in the eight seats polled than it was in 2010, "well in line with the 25 point Scotland-wide increase estimated by our current poll of polls".
He added: "In short, the SNP tide appears to be more or less every bit as strong in No voting Labour areas as it was previously shown to be in Yes voting ones."
According to the poll, the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy would cling on by just one percentage point in prosperous East Renfrewshire, with the SNP in second place. This was once the safest Tory seat in Scotland.
About 1,000 people in each constituency were polled by telephone last month.
Mr Murphy said: "There is no gloss that can be put on these polls. This is bad news for Scottish Labour but great news for the Tories.
"David Cameron will be rubbing his hands with glee when he sees these polls, because any seat the SNP take from Scottish Labour makes it more likely the Tories will be the largest party across the UK."
The SNP's general election campaign director Angus Robertson MP welcomed the poll predictions.
He said: "The most significant aspect of the findings is it confirms that the SNP's surge in support is reflected every bit as much in areas of Scotland which voted No as a well as Yes in the referendum.
"Only by voting SNP can people make Scotland's priorities the priorities at Westminster. More SNP seats means the more Westminster will listen to the people of Scotland."
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "This poll shows that the Scottish Conservatives are now in a real fight across Scotland."
The Scottish Liberal Democrats said: "As the election gets nearer people will want to back Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs to support our focus on public services and our plan for more support for the NHS. "
A previous poll by Lord Ashcroft suggested Labour's Douglas Alexander and Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander could lose their Westminster seats to the SNP on 7 May.
It predicted that of the seven Glasgow seats held by Labour, six could be lost to the SNP.