Quandary for Unionist parties as latest poll shows Scots in favour of significant change


By G.A.Ponsonby
People living in Scotland have given their clearest indication yet that they are in favour of major constitutional change.
With the referendum campaigns of both pro and anti-independence camps now having been launched, a poll published today shows support for major change running at 60 per cent with less than 30 per cent now in favour of the status quo.

The survey, carried out by TNS BMRB showed support for independence has fallen 3 points in six months, going from 26% to 23%.  However it also showed a similar fall for those supporting no change, dropping from 32% to 29%.

According to the survey, the most popular option amongst the electorate is the so called Devo-Max (DM), option which calls for all powers, with the exception of foreign affairs and defence, to be transferred from Westminster to Edinburgh.

With 37% saying they would opt for DM on the ballot paper and 23% desiring full independence, the mood amongst Scots is now one of a significant transfer of powers.

Commenting on the TNS BMRB poll, SNP Campaigns Director Angus Robertson MP said:  
“A clear majority of people across Scotland are rejecting the constitutional status quo on offer from the No campaign and choosing a positive change and progress for their country.
“The more people look at the kind of country they want Scotland to be the more they realise the status quo is holding Scotland back. People across Civic Scotland are considering the powers that Scotland needs to have a successful economy and fair society. 
“As an independent country we will have the economic levers to create new jobs and the responsibility for welfare to protect the vulnerable – increasing opportunities for our young people to realise their career ambitions.  It is only with independence that we can see Trident removed from our shores and the people of Scotland take all the decisions on their future.
“This poll puts further pressure on the anti-independence parties who are offering nothing to Scotland.  It follows calls from Labour’s biggest union backers Unite for a more powers option, which is also backed by much of civic Scotland as well as Tory Donor John McGlynn and leading businessmen Sir Tom Farmer and Jim McColl. This simply reinforces the case that the referendum must be made in Scotland, without any Westminster strings attached.
“We have the opportunity to make our nation a better place to live, for this and future generations, and are very confident we can win the Yes case for an independent Scotland in 2014.”

Commenting on behalf of TNS BMRB, Chris Enyon said that earlier polls showing higher support for independence was due to the competence of the SNP Government.  The polling company head insisted that the apparent fall in support was because the “level of debate” has become “intensified” since May 2011 and that “this has served to focus minds on the realities and implications to a greater extent, resulting in a significant weakening of support and reassertion of opposition to Scotland becoming an independent state.”

However, whilst saying the No camp would be “enthused” by the poll, he urged caution and added: “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 [independence] will have a considerable bearing on the outcome.”

The poll contained a boost for the No campaign with figures giving the status quo a 20 point lead over independence when no second option was offered, 50% opting to remain in the Union against 30% opting for independence.

However with the Scottish Government consultation on the referendum, which included views on a multi-option ballot, yet to reach a conclusion, the overwhelming support for more powers leaves Unionists with a major quandary should the consultation lead to an inclusion of Devo-Max.

Thus far all Unionist parties are against offering the Scottish electorate any option of enhanced powers on the ballot paper, and have indicated they may offer something more only if Scots return a No vote in the referendum.  At least one leading Unionist commentator, former Labour councillor and Lord Provost of Glasgow Michael Kelly, has already called for a boycott of the referendum if more powers are included.

The Scottish Government has stated it will wait to find out the results of its consultation before making a decision on the number of questions on the ballot paper. 

The Scottish Green’s stance at the moment is supportive of a Devo-Max type option, but today Patrick Harvie MSP suggested that this stance will be debated at his party’s conference later this year.

Former SNP MP, Margo MacDonald has expressed her opposition to a second question instead arguing for a straight yes or no to independence on the ballot paper.