The latest BMG poll for the Herald reveals that close to half of Scots support Scotland becoming an independent country.
The results find that, once don’t knows have been removed, 52% back Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, with 48% supporting independence.
Support for separation is highest among younger Scots. A majority (56%) of those aged between 16 and 24 support independence, compared to only one in four (25%) of those over the age of 65.
Just 8% of those that reported voting No in 2014 and Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum (‘No-Remainers’) would now back independence. However, 17% of those that reported voting Yes in 2014 and Leave in 2016 (‘Yes-Leavers’) now state that they want Scotland to remain in the UK.
At just over 48% there is actually no statistical difference compared to last month’s BMG poll for the Herald, which put support at 49%. The result lends yet more credence to the view that support for the principle of Scottish independence rose significantly after Mrs May’s ‘Hard Brexit Speech’ in January of this year. It also quashes claims that the rise may have been due to ‘sampling error’ given that elevated support has now sustained itself across two waves of polling conducted since May’s speech, and by other polling agencies.
However, there are two very large caveats that should be explained.
Firstly, though support for independence is up, there is still a clear majority against the idea of having another referendum before the Brexit negotiations are over. Excluding don’t knows, some 56% of Scots reject the idea of holding another referendum till negotiations between the EU & UK are complete.
Secondly, given that Brexit is the biggest concern for most Scots, regardless of the current level of support for an independent Scotland, it is likely that support will change as the terms of any UK-EU deal emerges over the coming months. Consequently, this suggests that it is indeed foreseeable for support for Scottish independence to rise somewhere near the ‘red-lines‘ outlined by Nicola Sturgeon, but it is equally foreseeable that support could fall away, and here’s why.
In aligning the SNP with the most pro-European vision of an independent Scotland, Sturgeon’s route to independence relies on the conversion of pro-Remain Unionists (the so-called ‘No Remainers‘) to the cause for independence. But in doing so she risks losing pro-independence Leavers (‘Yes Leavers‘), a large component of her existing support. Interestingly it is these ‘Yes Leavers‘ who appear to be holding back on their support for another referendum, with a majority in favour of an independent Scotland but actually opposed to another referendum being held before EU-UK negotiations are concluded (51%). Both ‘No Remainers‘ and ‘No Leavers‘ are also strongly opposed (73% & 97% respectively), meaning that the pro-Sturgeon, pro-SNP, pro-EU ‘Yes Remainers‘ are the only group in favour, with 83% supporting it. So, in courting ‘No-Remainer’s’ Sturgeon risks losing many ‘Yes-Leavers’.
When we take a deeper look into the results we can see why the move is such a big risk. Although for most Scots Brexit is the number one issue, for ‘Yes-Leavers‘ their top concern is actually Immigration (23%), with very few prioritising independence (5%). This contrasts sharply with the other wing of Sturgeon’s support, the ‘Yes Remainers’, whose top priority after Brexit is undoubtedly Scottish independence (21%). Given that the priorities of ‘Yes-Leavers‘ may be not well-aligned with Sturgeon’s vision of a pro-EU, pro-immigration Scottish nation, that may find itself one-day back inside the EU, it is easy to see why they haven’t responded warmly to the rallying cry for another referendum.
Finally, it is also worth noting that although Brexit is the number one concern of Sturgeon’s target audience, ‘No Remainers‘ rank Scottish independence relatively low down the pecking order of priorities, with fewer than 8% citing as it their top issue. Interestingly, it is domestic issues such as Healthcare/NHS (24%), as well as the national economy (10%), that are the key concerns of this group, meaning that the SNP’s record of delivering services and jobs may also play a role in winning over their support.
Fieldwork dates and methodology can be found here.
A full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
Dr Michael Turner – Research Director & Head of Polling