Support for Scottish independence at all-time high – new poll

SUPPORT for an independent Scotland has hit its highest level ever in a major survey identifying long-term changes in people’s social attitudes.

The latest release of the British Social Attitudes (BSA) poll shows that more than half of people north of the border think Scotland should be an independent nation.

It is the highest number since 1999, when the question of how Scotland should be governed was first raised.

That year – when the Scottish Parliament officially opened – support for independence was 27%, while 59% supported decentralization and 10% said they believed it Holyrood shouldn’t exist.

The new figures, based on a poll conducted in 2021, show that 52% support independence, while support for decentralization has fallen to 38%. Only 8% still think there should be no Scottish Parliament.

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But today’s report also shows that changing attitudes towards the Constitution are not unique to Scotland.

For the first time in Northern Ireland, support for UK affiliation has fallen to just under half from 49%, while support in Northern Ireland for Irish reunification has risen from 14% in 2015 to 30% now.

Experts at the National Center for Social Research (NatCen), which is conducting the survey, said the results show how Brexit has created divisions over UK governance that go beyond Scotland – and the new UK government faces a “particularly daunting challenge” of bringing the union together.

Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen, said the question of independence has been included in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey every year since 1999 – a parallel study of the BSA.

“The issue here is not whether Scotland should be an independent country, yes or no, it’s this long-term question and the point of that is that we can show how attitudes have changed over a long period of time,” he said .

“The 52% is as high as that question.”

The BSA report noted: “Since 2014, support for independence has increased significantly, particularly since the 2016 EU referendum, after which leaving the UK became more popular than decentralization for the first time.

“Against this backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising that Scotland’s constitutional status has once again become the subject of lively debate.

“The Union has certainly become decidedly less popular north of the border.”

The survey shows 82% of SNP Supporters now support independence, up from 51% in 2012, while the proportion of Conservative Identifiers that do this has changed little and remains at 5%.

Curtice said the report shows how attitudes towards independence have become more polarized over the years.

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“The immediate political aspect of this is that actually Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t have to tell anyone that an election is about the constitution – because that’s what people vote for their parties in the first place,” he said.

“Why is that happend? It basically happened because of Brexit.”

However, he also pointed out that this is not a unique trend in Scotland, but a similar pattern is occurring in Northern Ireland.

Almost two thirds – 65% – of those remaining in Scotland now support Scottish independence, up from 44% in 2016.

In 2016, 64% of people in Northern Ireland who voted to remain were in favor of becoming part of the UK, but now it’s just 37%.

The report says there is now “a sharp split” between supporters of the Northern Ireland Nationalist and Unionist parties on the constitutional question.

“At one end of the spectrum are supporters of the DUP, with over nine in ten wanting Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. On the other hand, nearly eight out of ten Sinn Féin supporters believe Sinn Féin should go,” it said.

Curtice added: “One would think that Northern Ireland has always been polarized on the constitutional question, but actually it hasn’t been.

“It’s now more polarized on the constitutional issue, and again that’s happened because of Brexit – because of course in Northern Ireland virtually everyone in the nationalist community voted Remain and about 80% of Sinn Fein supporters remain supporters.

“You can do this analysis on practically any issue of the British Constitution. So there is a broader process going on here.”

He added: “The fact that half of the people of Scotland might want to leave the UK poses a certain existential challenge for the UK.

“The point is that what happened in Scotland is not just about Scotland and in a way shows that it is part of a wider story that shows how Brexit has created divisions over UK governance that are over go out to Scotland.”

Curtice said the UK’s new government now faces a “particularly daunting challenge” of bringing the Union together on the issue of membership Europe as important as being in Britain.

The Argus: Sir John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow at NatCenSir John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow at NatCen

He added: “In the case of Ireland it has always been the case whether it is the UK state or the Irish state – but the point now is that the Irish state is within the EU and the UK is not within the EU.

“And in the case of Scotland, it will be about that when there is a referendum debate. It will not just be – like in 2014 – about whether you are inside or outside the UK, with various claims being made about how this has affected Scotland’s EU membership.

“We are now having a debate about which union you would prefer to join.”

SNP Deputy Chair Keith Brown said: “This is the highest level of support for independence in this series of authoritative polls. Becoming independent means Scotland will never suffer the harm again Westminster Tory governments are not elected here.


“Because of Westminster control of Scotland we are the subject of a Tory party moving ever further to the right – apparently planning to remove the cap on bankers’ bonuses at a time when the vast majority of people are suffering a hit to their living standards as a result of Brexit.

“Independent European countries resembling Scotland are more prosperous and just than Britain, so why not Scotland?”

The report also highlighted public health concerns, with around a quarter of people in Scotland (24%) and England (26%) saying they had not received the medical treatment they needed in the last 12 months due to long waiting lists.

Almost two thirds – 63% – of people living in Scotland said they were confident they would get the best treatment available if they fell seriously ill, compared with 56% in England.

Brown added: “NHS results show that despite the tremendous challenges posed by the pandemic, people across Scotland have more confidence in the health service here than their counterparts in Tory-led England.” Support for Scottish independence at all-time high – new poll

Fry Electronics Team

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