Scottish Independence: Is Support Wavering?
A new IPSOS Mori poll was posted recently, indicating falling support for Scottish independence, despite continued levels of support for the SNP (Scottish National Party). Support has fallen by a considerable 4 percentage points and support for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also fallen since October, though she still remains ahead of all other party leaders in terms of support. Sturgeon’s ‘net’ satisfaction has fallen from +48 points in October 2020 to +32 just months later.
Yes voters take to the polls in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
According to the poll 52% of Scots claimed they would vote Yes in an independence referendum, highlighting that whilst there is still slightly more support for Yes than No, this margin has slipped from 56% in November 2020. Independence does however remain a key voting issue for most people, with 44% of people claiming it is the most salient issue for them, compared with 32% stating education, 25% for healthcare, 20% for coronavirus, and 18% mentioning the economy.
The current battle between former first minister Alex Salmond, and current first minister Nicola Sturgeon may also perhaps be a cause in the recent fall of support towards independence, and towards the SNP. 36% of Scots for example claim the inquiry into the handling of allegations against Alex Salmond has made the SNP less favourable in their eyes, however most voters (58%) claim it has not changed their perception of the party.
The First Minister of Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon (SNP).
The SNP remain ahead of the other main parties in terms of voting intention for both the constituency vote and the regional vote for the Scottish election. For the constituency vote for Holyrood, the SNP are well in the lead with 52% of people claiming they would vote for them, though this is down 3% since late November 2020. For the regional vote, the SNP are also securely in the lead with 47% of voters supporting them. Despite an apparent drop in support concerning independence, the SNP remain favourable among voters which suggests their handling of other important voting issues remain popular with voters. The IPSOS Mori poll also found that those supporting the SNP or the Scottish Conservatives in the May election are “surer of their vote than those supporting Labour”.
There is evidence of continued support at least for a referendum to determine Scotland’s independence, despite a decline in outright support for independence itself. 56% Scots still support the idea of another independence referendum in the next 5 years if the SNP wins a majority in 2021 in Holyrood. If the SNP do secure a majority and the UK government will not allow a referendum, 42% of Scots say the Scottish government would have to accept there could not be a referendum in the next five years. 34% of Scots however, believe the Scottish government would have reason to take the UK government to court over this issue, and 18% say the Scottish government should hold a referendum anyway despite a lack of consent from the UK government.
Wavering support for Scottish independence but continued support for the SNP as a party could suggest that while independence may be becoming less salient to some voters, people still support the SNP’s governing style in terms of their handling of other key issues, as opposed to other major Scottish parties such as Labour or the Conservatives.
However, Yes does still hold the lead in the independence debate, with 52% versus 48% supporting No illustrating continued support for independence. Whilst support for independence has not fallen hugely yet then, if this trend continues No may well begin to edge into the lead.
Independence is the main issue for the SNP and arguably the crux of the party, so if the trend of falling support for independence should continue, it could be damaging for the party in coming months. However, at the time of this poll there were several issues which voters may have been simply venting their frustration about, such as the handling of allegations against Alex Salmond, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, both of which have been hugely controversial. The Yes side may well take a stronger lead again in coming months therefore, and strengthen the cause for independence.
Fran Robson, Policy and News Analysis Associate