Devo Max : still favourite – or are Scots just being canny?

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By Dave Taylor

A new poll from TNS-BMRB shows a 3% fall in support for both independence (23%) and the status quo (29%) since January, with Devo Max (everything devolved except defence and foreign affairs) gaining 7% to 37% support in a two question referendum.

It looks like neither the Yes or No campaign launches have been very persuasive!

But on closer reading the results cast more shade than light, not everyone responding to the poll is consistent.  1.4% of the sample said “No” to independence in a single question, but “Yes” to independence when two questions were asked. 

1.7% were undecided about independence in a straight choice, but for independence when the extra choice was introduced.  2.1% favoured independence on the single question, but the status quo when a little more complexity was introduced.  A further 1.1% of pro independence supporters on the single question didn’t know the answer when asked to consider another option.

That’s 6.3% of the sample. The 2.1% may contain some fundamentalists who would have liked devolution never to have happened, so that they could leap straight from oppression to freedom.  But it seems likely that 6% of the sample may find it too difficult to decide between turning left or tight at the top of the road when going to the polling station, and will be found standing on the kerb long after the polls have closed.

Then there’s a further 8% who are “Don’t Knows” whatever the question.  It is to the credit of professional pollsters that they translate the actual response of “I don’t give a toss either way” into a more acceptable wording.

This leaves 87% who have an opinion and might vote – unless personal circumstances get in the way.  That would still be pretty high, given that only 60.4% of the electorate voted in the 1997 referendum.

Chris Eynon from TNS noted that when the additional question is included “the percentage undecided declines significantly to virtually half the level recorded on the straightforward question of independence or not.  Around 1 in 4 of those currently supporting independence and almost 40% of those undecided on the ‘yes/no’ scenario would switch to the ‘devo-max’  option of increased powers within the United Kingdom if this were offered.  In the event that it is not offered, whether this latter group decide to vote for or against will have a considerable bearing on the outcome.”

He might have also noted that 44% of those currently against independence would support Devo Max.

If we ignore the confused and the “Don’t Cares”, a slightly different picture appears when we aggregate the responses to the single and double questions, but Eynon’s analysis is correct.

29% support “THE” UK, and if they were asked, many of this group would want Holyrood’s powers to be diminished or removed entirely.

76% support (or would go along with)  “A” UK, which only had control over defence and foreign affairs, while all other areas of governance were under Scottish control.

70% want an independent Scotland, or at least a massive transfer of power to Scotland.

25% support an independent Scotland, which would also handle defence and foreign affairs.

Arithmeticians will have noted that the total of 200% is attained because most UK and Scottish nationalists are included twice – if they would opt for Devo Max, given such an option.

Indeed, it seems clear that around three-quarters of Scots would happily accept the status of Crown Dependencies like the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.  That would be somewhat ironic, given the recent calls for Jersey to “be ready to become independent” – but also very hopeful of those of an independentista mind.

“Gradualist? Fundamentalist? Idealist? Pragmatist? Today? Tomorrow?” Those questions were usefully examined by the inestimable Lallands Peat Worrier back in 2010. His article is well worth revisiting , as is his one of his most recent cogitations.

All we can be certain of, however, is that there’s still all to play for.