It’s more likely than not that the Scottish people will go to the polls in a second referendum on independence. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated a preference for it to be held between the Autumn of 2018 and Spring of 2019, but Theresa May responded that ‘now is not the time’. This response may provoke a jump in support for Yes in the polls, as is anticipated by Downing Street, but whether that alone will be sustainable to put support for independence ahead is yet to be seen.
So, what’s the state of Scottish opinion right now?
Firstly, many a comment has been made online about whether there is indeed public backing for a second referendum from the Scottish people. A BMG poll (23 – 27 Feb) asked voters whether they support or oppose a referendum ‘prior to the Brexit negotiations being concluded’. It found 39% in support, 49% opposed. A Survation poll (08 – 13 Mar) asked voters whether they ‘support or oppose Scotland having another independence referendum before the UK leaves the European Union’. A plurality of Scots were found to be in opposition.
A Panelbase poll (08 – 13 Feb), which tried to gain detailed preferences shows a split public. 32 per cent indicated a preference for one to be held before Brexit, 19 per cent for one after, 25 per cent not for another 20 years, and 24 per cent never.
Panelbase also asked voters for their preference on the position Scotland should be in, irrespective of the EU referendum result. A majority were found to be in support of membership of the United Kingdom, though split on EU membership. 26 per cent supported UK and EU membership and 27 per cent just UK membership. 41 per cent were found to be in favour of independence, split between 10 per cent holding a preference for out of the EU and 31 per cent in.
The poll then went on to ask: ‘Since the Brexit vote, it’s no longer possible for Scotland to remain in both the UK and the EU. Which of the three other options is your preference?’
Here, when prompting Brexit, a plurality of voters were found to be in favour of independence, at 48 per cent – an increase of seven points on the earlier question. A preference for the United Kingdom fell from 53 per cent to 43 per cent.
When asking the same respondents the standard IndyRef question, however (‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’), Panelbase found support (Yes) at 44 per cent, No 51 per cent with 5 per cent undecided. A more recent Panelbase poll (13 – 17 Mar) found Yes 42 per cent, No 53 per cent.
The motivation to vote Yes for the sake of EU membership does seem at present to be minimal. This may change as time goes on with the prospect of Brexit ever the more real in the minds of the voter, but we cannot be certain.
Ipsos Mori (24 Feb – 06 Mar) found 48 per cent saying Scotland should be a full EU member, 27 per cent to have just full access to the single market and 17 per cent neither of the two. A report by ScotCen (surveyed July – December 2016) shows that, despite 46 per cent of Scots preferring independence to devolution or no parliament – a new high in their series – euroscepticism is, also, on the rise.
Finally, when just plainly asking Scots how they intend to vote in a referendum on independence, four of the last five polls, when including undecided voters, found a lead for No.
*The YouGov survey does not include 16-17 year olds.
by Ben Walker