Independence now the most popular option for Scots

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By Dave Taylor

A new poll [1] gave voters the choice between “Support independence” : “Devolve financial powers but not defence and foreign policy” and “Keep things as they are”.

37%, of those who had an opinion, support independence; 33% chose the status quo; while “Devo Max” is being squeezed and is down to only 30% as a first preference.

When asked the single question “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?” 47% said Yes, with 53% choosing No.

To a series of questions on what the effects of independence would be, responses were overwhelmingly positive as to how Scotland would benefit from Independence.

64% thought it would have a positive benefit for Scottish culture and 59% thought it would be good for Scottish confidence. On health and education, 42% and 47% respectively thought independence would be a benefit. 50% felt that independence would help the environment, and 27% that it would cut crime. 35% believed that the level of welfare benefits paid out would fall in an independent Scotland.

Many thought that there might be little difference pre and post independence. 27% on culture, 22% on confidence, 41% on health, 14% on education, 35% on the environment, 56% on crime, and 37% on welfare benefits recognised that independence isn’t a magic wand waved by the Good Witch of the North, or the Wicked Witch of the South.

Then there were the doom merchants. Some are convinced that Scotland is too wee and weak to stand by itself. 9% thought our (or perhaps their) culture would be damaged, while the confidence of 19% would be reduced. On health and education 17% and 19% respectively feared that independence would damage these services, while 15% thought the environment would be harmed, and 17% that crime would rise. 28% believed that welfare benefits would rise. Private Fraser lives on!

The Sunday Times makes great play of attitudes to the euro saying, rather inaccurately that “the SNP’s policy is to hold a referendum on Scottish membership of the single currency.” Since no one knows how the current eurozone crisis is going to work out, Scots clearly agree with the SNP assessment that  the sensible answer to “Do you believe Scotland would be better off financially if it adopted the euro?” would be a resounding No for the foreseeable future. 82% agreed with that. Only 7% favoured entry to the euro.

When asked “Do you believe your personal tax burden would rise or fall in an independent Scotland?” 56% thought they would end up paying more in tax, 30% envisaged no change, while 14% thought their taxes would fall.

Students of polling questions might ponder whether the term “tax burden” meant that respondents were pushed in a particular direction.

Holyrood Voting Intention

The SNP continues to ride high in the polls, and the LDs have sunk so low as not to have their figures quoted at all. In the following figures they are included among the “others”.

On the constituency vote, the SNP attracts 50% support, with Labour on 29% and the Tories with 14% backing them. Others have 7% between them.

On the list, SNP picks up 48%, Labour 29%, Tories 13% and others on 10%.

At Holyrood, that would produce little change from the current distribution of MPs. The SNP would pick up a couple of MSPs from the LDs. However, the balance between constituency and list MSPs would change. The SNP would pick up around 12 constituencies from Lab/Con, while losing the equivalent number of list seats. Ambitious SNP candidates need to make sure that they have a constituency nomination.

Leader Satisfaction

There are no surprises here. Alex Salmond has the only positive satisfaction rating in Scotland at +17.

For the record, others are rated poorly : Clegg -54 : Cameron -43 : Miliband -41 : Davidson -32 : Rennie -27 : and Lamont as the least unpopular opposition politician at -18.

Assisted Suicide

On another issue, the poll sought to find out attitudes to assisted suicide, in advance of Margo MacDonald introducing her amended bill to allow this. Public opinion supports her.

69% agreed that assisted suicide should be allowed, with only 14% against and 16% unsure.

On a related question, voters were asked if relatives should be allowed to help without fear of prosecution. This had even greater support with 76% agreeing, 9% disagreeing and 15% unsure.

[1] The poll, of 1000 Scottish adults, was conducted by Panelbase for the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland between January 27 and 1 Feb 2012.

Panelbase are a reputable online company, who have a background in consumer polling rather than political work. They are members of the Market Research Society, but are not members of the British Poling Council, and do not publish detailed methodology and tables. Their polling for the Holyrood elections last year was largely in line with that of other companies.