72% of Scots reject the status-quo

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP’s Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed the latest edition of British Social Attitudes survey published today. 

The report shows that Scots have an increasing appetite for self-government, with support for Scotland having greatly extended powers at 72% and support for the Scottish Parliament having the full powers of an independent state at 43%.

The report finds that when asked to choose between a range of constitutional options, independence was the choice preferred by the largest number.  43% of the 1,197 Scottish residents polled in the survey chose independence as their preference, up 15% on the 28% who opted for independence in the previous year’s survey.  

Support for so-called devo-max, where Scotland would have control of all taxation and government expenditure except defence and foreign affairs, has declined slightly as support for independence has increased.  29% report favouring devo-max, down three percentage points from the figure reported in last year’s survey.

Meanwhile support for the status quo has dropped to just 21%, down 6% on the figure from last year’s report.  The small minority of Scots who are opposed to any form of self-government is diminishing even further, with just 5% now reporting this as their preferred option, down from 10% in the previous survey.  Abolishing the Scottish Parliament is the position held privately by a number of Conservatives, and is official UKIP policy.  

Together these figures mean that 72% of Scots are in favour of the Scottish Parliament having greatly increased powers going far beyond anything which the anti-independence parties are currently prepared to consider.  Earlier this year Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, described the powers detailed in the Scotland Act as a “line in the sand”.

However on another measurement in the report, when a different question is asked, support for independence is at 32%, although this is also significantly higher than the figure of 23% reported in the survey conducted in 2010.

Increased confidence in Scotland’s ability to care for its own citizens and find its own way in the world is reflected in the growing belief that Scotland would fare better as an independent country.  In a range of areas including the economy, standard of living and voice in the world, the report shows that the clear majority of people believe things in Scotland would be better if the country were independent.

67% of respondents believe independence would give them better or stronger pride in their country, while just 2% believe it would weaken.  51% believe that independence would give Scotland a stronger voice in the world, as opposed to just 27% who think it would make no difference, and only 19% who feel Scotland would be weakened.  On the economy, 34% expect it will improve with independence with 29% believing it would be weaker.  The same number, 34%, believe independence would improve the standard of living, while just 23% think independence would damage living standards.

These figures will be of deep concern to strategists in the anti-independence campaign, whose message that independence risks damaging Scotland’s economic success – and the Union allows Scotland to “punch above her weight” internationally – does not appear to be resonating with voters.

The report also finds that voters in England are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of an independent Scotland.  26% of English residents polled in the survey support Scottish independence, up from just 14% in 1997.  However the survey also found decreasing support amongst people in England for a devolved Scottish Parliament within the UK.

While 55% of English residents polled in 1997 supported a Scottish Parliament within the UK, that figure has now dropped to 44%.  This drop in support in England may mean that the main anti-independence parties may struggle to find a constitutional policy that can adequately respond to both Scotland’s desire for greater self-government, and England’s increasing disenchantment with the devolution project.

The report also showed that more English people (44%) believe that Scotland is subsidised than believed it a decade ago (21%).

Ms Sturgeon said:

“This positive survey is a big boost for Scotland, with 72% of people wanting more powers for our country.

“The survey shows 43% support for independence and the Scottish Parliament making all the decisions for Scotland – up 15 points on 2010.

“Becoming an independent nation is the most popular constitutional option, and demonstrates that the people of Scotland share our positive vision for the future of our country.

“The more people look at the kind of nation they want Scotland to be, the more they realise that Westminster control is holding Scotland back.

“Although we have achieved a great deal with the limited powers of the Scottish Parliament, people recognise that we can achieve so much more as an independent nation.

“We will have the economic levers to create new jobs, the responsibility for welfare to protect the vulnerable, and the powers to remove Trident from Scottish waters.

“It should be the people and parliament of Scotland taking all the policy decisions for Scotland – not a Tory-led Westminster government.

“We have the opportunity to make our nation a better place to live, for this and future generations – and this survey demonstrates that there is a clear, winning case for independence and equality for Scotland.”

The 29th British Social Attitudes report will be available from the NatCen website on the 17th September 2012.