Trident poll: Scots were asked about ‘submarines’ and not ‘weapons’

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  By Martin Kelly
 
An academic who claimed people in Scotland are more in favour of keeping Trident than those south of the border, has confirmed his organisation’s Scottish survey did not specifically ask about nuclear weapons.
 
Professor John Curtice, who is co-director of the Scottish Social Attitudes surveys, told BBC Scotland that his organisation had asked Scots, “do you think that the United Kingdom should be required to remove its weapons in an independent Scotland,”

Results of the poll showed 37% of people were in favour of removing the weapons against only 37% who said they wanted them to stay.

The survey was widely presented by the Scottish media as evidence that more Scots back keeping Trident on the Clyde in the event of independence, than want to see the nuclear weapons removed from Scotland.

However it has now emerged that the question which Scottish respondents were asked, was not as the BBC reported and did not ask about Trident or nuclear weapons.

Newsnet Scotland can confirm that the question was: “How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? If Scotland becomes an independent country, Britain’s nuclear weapons submarines should continue to be based in Scotland.”

The question wording, which asked about ‘submarines’, has already led to claims that the results of the survey are unreliable.  It also contrasts with the question asked south of the border, which was:

“At the moment, Britain’s nuclear weapon submarines are based in Scotland. Regardless of whether you support or oppose Britain having nuclear weapons, if Scotland became an independent country, separate from the rest of the UK, should Britain’s nuclear weapons remain in Scotland or should they be moved to somewhere else in Britain?”

Quizzed by Newsnet Scotland on why the Scottish poll used a phrase that may have led to people believing they were being asked about submarines and not specifically nuclear weapons, Professor Curtice declined to respond.

The reluctance of the academic to acknowledge or explain the difference between both questions comes despite Professor Curtice himself previously highlighting the dangers of comparing polls which ask different questions on a similar subject.

The survey has already been criticised for asking two different questions on each side of the border, with those in England and Wales asked, “…should Britain’s nuclear weapons remain in Scotland,…”

John Ainslie, Coordinator of Scottish CND said “The latest study is wrong to conclude that people here want Trident to stay while those South of the border want it to move, if Scotland is independent.

“People in Scotland were asked a different question, in a different context, from those in the rest of the UK and this has distorted the results.”