New poll shows only a minority of voters support the Union


A newly released opinion poll confirms that only a minority of voters support the Union in both Scotland and the UK generally. The survey conducted by ComRes (1) shows that when asked to respond to the statement ‘Scotland should be an independent country’ only 42% of Britons disagree with 33% agreeing and 25% of respondents answering ‘don’t know’. The poll, surveying 2004 adults between 11th and 12th of May, shows that across the UK a majority of Britons think that Scotland and England should be independent nations or are comfortable with the idea.

The Scottish sample of the poll, although having a larger margin of error because of the small sample of 183 respondents, confirms recent poll findings that show only a minority of Scots are currently in favour of the Union with 46% disagreeing, 38% agreeing (69% of SNP voters) and 16% in the ‘don’t know’ camp. Apart from observing that the recent landslide Holyrood election victory for the SNP does not exactly reflect Scotland’s desire for independence it is clear that the Union does not carry a clear mandate.

In the election aftermath it has been fascinating to observe attempts to seize the agenda. Unionist-leaning news outlets report that opinion polls on the constitution show Scots voted SNP because they preferred Alex Salmond’s team to form the Scottish Government but only around 30% of Scots want independence with the rest against. This latest ComRes poll is further confirmation that support for independence is actually significantly higher than reports in the media but perhaps more importantly clearly demonstrates that there is no majority against independence or for the Union.

Most opinion polls ask people if they want ‘independence’, ‘more powers’ or ‘no change’. The neat conjuring trick performed by pro-Union commentators is to deduce that the ‘more powers’ option should be reported as ‘against independence’ or that if you are not ‘for’ independence that you are therefore ‘against’ it.

If those who want ‘more powers’ are to be re-allocated then surely it would be more accurate to attribute them to the pro-independence camp so forming a clear majority against Union. We have seen in poll after poll that if pushed a large majority of those who support ‘more powers’ would vote ‘Yes’ in a simple yes/no independence referendum. Analysis of voters who show a preference for ‘more powers’ for the Scottish parliament do so on the basis that they consider it a gradualist step towards independence.

In December last year Newsnet Scotland reported on a TNS poll which surveyed on the constitutional question. The poll, which asked the views of around 1000 Scots who were eligible to vote, showed that 44% of those questioned were against the Scottish Parliament “having the powers and responsibilities to enable independence”. The number of those in favour of Scotland taking the direct path to independence was slightly behind at 40%. However a full 16 percent of respondents “didn’t know”. What was interesting about this poll was that, a few months ago when Iain Gray was coasting to certain victory at Holyrood, either a majority of Scots – in a larger and more accurate sample – were in favour of independence or would happily consider it.