Why Scottish independence supporters should be feeling optimistic – Angus Robertson

Polls show an unmistakable trend of Scottish independence becoming the majority opinion – and the full effects of Brexit will begin to be felt before next year’s Holyrood election, writes Angus Robertson.
Supporters of Scottish independence march through the streets of Glasgow (Picture: John Devlin)Supporters of Scottish independence march through the streets of Glasgow (Picture: John Devlin)
Supporters of Scottish independence march through the streets of Glasgow (Picture: John Devlin)

One swallow does not a summer make. Nor does one opinion poll show that public opinion has changed fundamentally. However when a series of surveys shows a marked underlying trend it is worth sitting up and taking notice.

At the weekend a new poll by respected pollster Panelbase for ‘Business for Scotland’ found that support for Scottish independence has now reached 54 per cent.

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It is the fifth Panelbase poll to ask the independence question in 2020 and those polls have now found support for independence at 52 per cent, 49 per cent, 50 per cent, 52 per cent and 54 per cent. Not only do the polls suggest that momentum is now with the independence movement, it demonstrates that there is an underlying trend towards ‘Yes’ from undecided, open-minded and previously ‘No’ voters.

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Poll: 'Growing' majority of Scots now back independence

A graph published by Oxford University PhD candidate Leonardo Carella shows the unmistakable important trend of ‘Yes’ overtaking “No” as support for Scottish independence becomes the majority opinion.

Even if still undecided voters are included in the survey of 1,070 residents in Scotland aged over 16, support for Scottish independence leads by 50 per cent to 43 per cent, with seven per cent as ‘Don’t Knows’. Men support independence by 58 per cent to 42 per cent while female voters are finally balanced at 49 per cent to 51 per cent.

Brexit will affect Scottish elections

Support amongst younger voters aged between 16 and 34 is overwhelming at 73 per cent to 27 per cent. No doubt a further cohort of pro-independence younger voters replacing an older anti-independence cohort since the 2014 referendum is a contributing factor to the underlying changes. However as other research has shown, the likes of the Brexit effect is also relevant.

The Covid pandemic has squeezed out major media coverage of the UK’s Brexit transition discussions, but it is increasingly likely that the economic damage wrought by coronavirus will be worsened by the negative impact of leaving the European Union.

This will be felt before the Scottish Parliament elections next May. Party political voting intentions show that the SNP is riding high in opinion polls at the moment, with especially high ratings for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Meanwhile the opposition Tories are languishing in the polls with leader Jackson Carlaw failing spectacularly to gain any traction or credibility.

‘As good as it gets?’

Independent polling expert Mark Diffley is right to point out the need to do more work to understand undecided and open-minded voters on independence and also see further findings from different polling organisations for more certainty.

That is exactly what my research organisation ‘Progress Scotland’ is going to be doing as we gradually emerge out of lockdown. Together with respected pollsters and analysis from Mark Diffley, we are going to try and better understand who has been moving towards ‘Yes’, why they have done so, and what might move further voters in the same direction.

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At the same time as policy-makers have been focused on dealing with the pandemic there has clearly been some thinking and reconsideration going on about Scotland’s future by the general public. The woeful leadership of Boris Johnson and the UK Government may be making more people ask “is this as good as it gets?”

Perhaps the handling of the Scottish Government, which is seen by the public as being much better, helps people conclude we should make all key decisions in Scotland and not leave it up to people we don’t vote for, doing so badly. Views in Scotland on independence are changing, the question is by how much and will it continue?

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