Surge in Support for Independence As UK Economy Plunges

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GENERAL…by Alex Porter

A new YouGov opinion poll shows that support for Scottish independence has risen by 6% to 34% since the UK elections in May this year whilst support for the Union, at 50%, was down 8% over the same period.

The poll also showed that almost twice as many Scots would prefer to see Alex Salmond as Scotland’s First Minister than support Iain Gray  (41% versus 24%).

The findings will be a major boost to the SNP ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections and are an indication that the Scottish electorate are beginning to question whether Scotland’s interests are best served by maintaining the Union.

The SNP welcomed the survey which also shows that a majority Scots favour Holyrood acquiring significant economic powers as the effects of Labour’s deficit begin to bite.  The Sunday Express/You Gov survey found 56% of the 1405 people questioned want to give the Scottish Government the ability to raise taxes and borrow money to help offset the effect of the UK recession.

Crucially for Labour and the Lib Dems, a majority of their own supporters were also in favour of the idea, putting the supporters at odds with the party leaders who favour a more cautious approach.  The SNP have argued that economic independence is essential if the Scottish economy is to grow and jobs are to be saved.

Scottish unionist parties have argued that as the crisis deepens Scots will care less about independence and more about public services.  This poll shows that analysis is fundamentally flawed as the Scottish electorate clearly equate independence with jobs and economic improvement.

Commenting on the findings the Depute First Minister and Depute SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon remarked:

“With the powers of independence we can genuinely protect the things Scotland holds dear and deliver the jobs and economic growth we need to recover strongly from recession.”

The call for economic independence was boosted over the weekend by world renouned economist Andrew Hughes Hallett who argued on the Radio Scotland ‘Newsweek’ programme that Scotland had subsidised the UK for years:

“When you get down to it, on the current account for the last five years at least, maybe longer, Scotland has had a current account surplus, which is currently according to the national accounts in Scotland £1.3 billion.” said Professor Hallett.

Asked whether economic independence would ‘definitely’ leave Scotland in a better financial position Hallett remarked:

“You can definitely say that it [Scotland] would be better off in terms of the revenue.”

Listen to Professor Hughes Hallett’s interview here:

As David Cameron’s coalition government implements the deepest public sector cuts seen in generations, Labour strategists are failing to shift the blame over causing the crisis in Britain’s public finances onto the issue of whether Tory cuts are necessary.

Opinion polls show that most of the electorate blame the last Labour government for Britain’s ballooning public sector deficit. 42% of Scots blame Labour for the crisis and over 80% of Scots blame both the current UK coalition government and the previous Labour governments.

With the Scottish elections nearing and with the SNP fast closing the gap on Labour’s popularity poll ratings, the reputation of economic credibility will be wrestled over by the two main party contenders. If Labour fail to deflect blame for the crisis by the time the campaign gets into full swing, Alex Salmond will feel more confident of his party’s chances of winning a second term at Holyrood.