Why Labour won’t ‘throw in the towel’ on Scotland

As the U.K. election enters the home straight and each party fights for the last votes, Labour renewed its push for the North-of-the-border vote on Thursday, warning that a vote for the Scottish National Party (SNP) would help the Conservatives into power in Westminster.

Opposition finance minister Ed Balls told CNBC that he had not given up on coaxing Scotland back from the Nationalists—despite polls suggesting it might be a lost cause for Labour.

"What you don't do is throw in the towel seven days before a general election, when the vast majority of people haven't voted," the 48-year-old told CNBC on Thursday.


Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
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Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

He spoke after an STV News poll published on Wednesday indicated that the SNP would win every seat—all 59 of them—in Scotland. The findings were based on a survey of 1071 respondents aged over 18 conducted by telephone between April 22 and 27.

On Thursday, Balls took an optimistic stance on recent polls and implied Labour could target those Scots still undecided.

"What the polls show this week is that 30 percent of likely-to-vote Scots have not yet decided and therefore they are not in those opinion polls," he told CNBC.

Unlike the Labour or Conservative Parties in Westminster, the SNP is committed to independence for Scotland. The SNP is the ruling party in Scotland with a majority in the region's parliament. But it also competing for seats in the UK's parliamentary elections. Under the leadership of its new leader, 44-year-old Nicola Sturgeon, the party has bounced back from a major defeat in September when most Scots voted to remain part of the U.K. in a referendum on independence.

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Now, the Nationalists are seen becoming the third-biggest party in the House of Commons and stealing the Scottish vote away from Labour, who is their traditional rival North-of-the-border. This could boost the Conservatives' chances of re-election under current Prime Minister David Cameron.

"David Cameron wants the SNP to do well, so that we can have a Tory Prime Minister again in Downing Street. The SNP want David Cameron to do well because they know that will drive Scotland towards independence," Balls told CNBC on Thursday.

"Scotland has a choice of two roads: a second referendum and a Tory government by voting SNP, or a Labour government that delivers the bank bonus tax, youth jobs and the higher minimum wage. You only get a labour government if you vote for it," he concluded.

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