By Bob Duncan
Support for Scottish independence has more than doubled amongst young Scots according to a new poll.
The survey, by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Times newspaper showed that in only four months, support for a Yes vote in 2014 has gone from 27 per cent to 58 per cent amongst those in the 18 to 24 age group.
Carried out between February 4th and February 9th, pollsters surveyed 1003 Scottish adults using the same question agreed by the Electoral Commission – Should Scotland be an independent country?
The survey also showed support for independence as a whole had risen since a similar poll was carried out in October. Those who said they favoured independence now standing at 34 per cent compared to 30 per cent last year.
Over the same period, those against independence fell by 3 points, from 58% to 55%.
The 3.5 point swing is consistent with recent polls that indicate the Yes campaign increasing its vote share at the expense of the No. As with a more recent poll that showed a 17 point gap between the two, this survey still gives the No campaign a decent lead of 21 per cent.
However, it is the shift from No to Yes amongst the young that will cause the most concern to the No campaign and give a significant boost to those in favour of Yes. Possible reasons for the shift to ‘Yes’ include tuition fees, employment fears and welfare reforms – all of which impact on this age group.
The poll also contained good news for the SNP, with First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon both recording impressive approval ratings.
Half of those surveyed said they were “satisfied” with Ms Sturgeon’s performance compared with 33 per cent who were dissatisfied — giving her a net approval rating of plus 17 per cent.
Fifty per cent were happy with Mr Salmond’s performance with 43 per cent dissatisfied – a net approval of seven per cent.
Worryingly for the No campaign, only 33 per cent said they were satisfied with Better Together head Alistair Darling with 32 per cent expressing dissatisfaction, a positive approval of 1 per cent. The largest group, 35 per cent, said they had no opinion on the Labour MP’s performance.
A spokeswoman for the Yes Scotland campaign described the 31 per cent increase in support among young voters as “phenomenal”.
She added: “It shows very clearly that our positive and optimistic campaign is resonating with younger people who have the greatest stake in securing a fairer and more prosperous future for our country.
The Scottish National Party’s Business Convener Derek Mackay described the new poll as “excellent”, saying:
“Since this poll, the Scottish Government have published the detailed report of the Fiscal Commission which shows how we can have a stronger economy with the powers of an independent Scotland.
“And an independent Scotland will be a fairer Scotland – instead of having cruel cuts such as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ imposed by a Tory-led government that Scotland didn’t vote for. And the UK government’s own legal expert has agreed that the Scottish Government’s timescale for independence is ‘realistic’.”
Mackay added: “The political landscape is changing in a way which is boosting the case for a Yes vote – not least as the damaging impact of Westminster’s ill-thought out and unfair benefits cuts become sadly clear.
“The compelling case for a Yes vote is that only with independence will Scotland always get the governments we vote for, and we are confident but by no means complacent about achieving success in the referendum.”
Commenting on the poll, the head of the Better Together alliance, Alistair Darling said: “Being ahead in the polls is always better than being behind. However, there is no doubt that the only poll that matters – and the poll that we are absolutely focused on – is the one that will be taking place in autumn next year. We will be doing everything we can between now and then to win the arguments and win the votes of people in every part of Scotland.”
There was more good news for the nationalists with the survey showing support for the party has increased since last October, up 3 points to 43 per cent with Labour static on 35 per cent.
The Ispsos MORI results are shown below, with the change on their last poll in October 2012 in brackets:
SNP 43% (+3)
Labour 35% (n/c)
Con 13% (n/c)
Lib Dem 7% (-1)
Others 2% (-2)
SHOULD SCOTLAND BE AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY?
Yes 34% (+4)
No 55% (-3)
LEADER SATISFACTION RATINGS
Alex Salmond 50/43: +7
David Cameron 27/67: -40
Nicola Sturgeon 50/33: +17
Alistair Darling 33/32: +1