Coffee House

Sorry, Alex, but Scots are going off the idea of independence

18 October 2012

5:40 PM

18 October 2012

5:40 PM

With two years to go, Alex Salmond’s campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum is facing a big challenge to turn around public opinion. Ipsos MORI have a new poll out today, showing almost two-to-one opposition to independence, and support for Salmond’s cause has been declining all year.

This matches the findings of two other pollsters. YouGov found the split going from 33 ‘yes’/53 ‘no’ in January to 27-60 in August. And TNS-BMRB have it going from 35-44 in January to 28-53 this month.

So the SNP has its work cut out — it needs to change plenty of Scottish minds if its even going to make the 2014 vote close. They seem to be testing out messages to achieve this, having commissioned a YouGov poll last week.

The first message is that, as Nicola Sturgeon put it at the SNP conference in Perth today, ‘it is fundamentally better for all of us if decisions affecting Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland — that is, the people of Scotland’. The poll asked:

‘In general, which government do you think is better at making decisions for Scotland?’


It found 64 per cent choosing the Scottish government against just 24 per cent for the UK government.

The second message is that independence would make Scots better off economically. As Fraser’s noted, the Scottish Social Attitudes survey has already observed the power of this argument: if it would make them £500 a year worse off, 66 per cent would reject independence; if it made them £500 a year better off, 65 per cent would support it. And the SNP’s new YouGov poll backs that up (albeit to a lesser extent). It asked:

‘If the ‘Yes’ campaign could persuade you that you and your family would be economically better off with Scottish independence, in these circumstances, how likely or unlikely would you be to vote ‘Yes’ for an independent Scotland in 2014?’

It found 45 per cent saying they’d be likely to, compared to 36 per cent unlikely.

Unfortunately for Salmond and co, that Social Attitudes survey also shows that Scots don’t think independence is in their economic interests. Just a third believe it would make them better off, while the majority say it’d either make them worse off or leave things the same.

So how do the SNP intend to convince them? The clue’s in the preamble to that YouGov question:

‘The ‘Yes’ campaign is deploying a series of arguments as part of their campaign to achieve a ‘Yes’ vote for an independent Scotland in the referendum in 2014 – for example they point to statistics showing that Scotland generates 9.6 per cent of UK taxes, but receives just 9.3 per cent of UK spending in return.’

That claim is true for Scotland in 2010-11, but only if you grant it 90.5 per cent of North Sea oil revenues. If those revenues were allocated on a per capita basis, Scotland would generate just 8.4 per cent of total UK revenues. And again, the idea that Scotland gives too much and gets too little is rejected by the majority of Scots. The Social Attitudes survey found 51 per cent saying Scotland’s share of spending is fair or more than fair, against 42 per cent who say it’s less than fair. That may be partly because, in 2010-11, spending per head in Scotland was £11,785 compared to £10,663 in England.

The third message the SNP got YouGov to test was their opposition to Trident. The poll asked:

‘Do you think that the Scottish Parliament should have more powers so that it can bring about the removal of Trident nuclear weapons from Scottish waters?’

46 per cent said yes, 35 per cent said no. But a more useful question for the SNP to ask is how important that issue is to people when considering how to vote on independence. My suspicion is: not very.

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Show comments
  • terregles2

    Westminster becoming increasingly desperate. They are worried that they lose the rich resources of Scotland so we expect the scare tories to become even more hysterical over the coming months. Scotland has so many resources that they are determined to keep control of. Whisky, Textiles, Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology, Metals, Oil, Gas, Renewables, Forestry, Tourism, Fisheries, Food Exports, Stem cell research, Paper etc.
    Now that their credit rating has been downgraded stand by for some really desperate tactics to prevent Independence.

  • HooksLaw

    But what measures are there that affect Scotland so uniquely?

    Scotland had local governments before devolution and still have, so local issues in Scotland are decided as relevantly there as in Yorkshire or Rutland.#

    The whole issue of Scottish independence is a bogus one. Most Scots can see this as they realise that independence would mean joining the eu AND THE eURO

  • Gina Dean

    “Do you think that the Scottish Parliament should have more powers so that it can bring about the removal of Trident nuclear weapons from Scottish waters?’
    Have they thought this through. What will the towns that service the Trident and other bases do if they were to be removed and brought back to England. How would they survive without the revenue. Would areas end up ghost towns with people moving out when jobs dry up. Lets hope that all the negatives are put top the people as well as the plus.

    • Lynda Williamson

      Trident does not generate wealth, it costs money and Scotland pays it’s share of the bill. If we are no longer paying for Trident the money saved could be invested in productive areas of the economy

  • NorthBrit

    By changing the order of just two words, and using exactly the same data:”Just a third believe it would make them worse off, while the majority say it’d either make them better off or leave things the same.”

    “That claim is true … but only if you” assign territorial waters in exactly the same way as in the whole of the rest of the world. As opposed to on an idiotic basis proposed by partisans of the Union. But if you’re peddling fear, every little helps.

  • Iain Hill

    Once again, the message must be about the actual benefits, with details, for the Scottish people which independence will bring. Anything else will be distorted by the vested interests on the other side.

  • dalai guevara

    Connecting the question of independence with the consequences of its financial impact on the individual exposes the mindset of the classic short term thinking enquirer.

  • Daniel Maris

    Just to underline that point – we won’t be Great Britain anymore, we will be Britain (England and Wales).

    Incidentally I think we are in denial, reflected in what English commentators are saying. As English we seem to be incapable of accepting independence is a very real prospect and we really haven’t thought about the emotional impact of this. This is v. much a case of you only miss them when they are gone. The Scots, for all their capacity to irritate as much as a sporran worn under the kilt, are woven into English identity – in war, in humour, in drink, in writing, in drama, in politics, in business, in music, in art.

    • Ruby Duck

      They’re certainly woven into English politics.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Are the Scots a separate race or are they just people living in Scotland? If they are a race then every time someone makes a Scottish joke about their meanness, money grubbing, miserableness, aggressiveness etc etc they must be guilty of racism. Rather put the lid on stuff like this..

        Even if the Scots, by some quirk, became independent, they would still be there, next to us. The case of the Irish is analogous. Nobody supposes the Irish are foreign in the way the French are foreign. Nobody going to Dublin thinks they are going to a foreign capital like Paris or even New York.

        Don’t we all think of Scandinavians as much the same? And they have different languages, or they sort of do..

        • MichtyMe

          Yes Fergus, most folk, Scots or English, probably will feel that Dublin is less foreign than London.

      • HooksLaw

        British politics

    • HooksLaw

      We will, or would be, whatever we chose to call ourselves. Even that much ought to be obvious even to you.

      Scots are not part of ‘English’ identity. They are part of our common British identity. Many Scots do indeed live in England and if there were independence they would have to decide what sort of passport they wanted.

      • eric45

        There are more English living in Scotland , if fact 1/5 of the population vs Scots being 1/60 of the English population. In other words you can live your live never meeting a Scot whereas in Scotland, the English are omnipresent.

    • terregles2

      Find it strange that you make sweeping generalisation about the Scots. I find that quite patronising. No one nation is just anything, Scots like every other nation are made of people good bad and indifferent,
      I judge people on their kindness, humour,manners and their friendliness etc. Not where they happened to be born,
      I have met lovely English people and also some nasty ones. It wasn’t their Englishness that defined them. I would never dream of saying that any nation irritated me. A few people within it perhaps but never a whole nation.

  • Justathought

    Taking a poll on Scottish attitudes during the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is as useful as asking a New Yorkers how they feel about the Irish on St Patrick’s Day.

  • Daniel Maris

    Things will move back to teh SNP, of that I am sure because as soon as you subject these matters to the microscope of debate things become clearer – and the idea of Scotland being worse of as a result of independence will be shown to be nonsense.

  • dorothy wilson

    One of the key questions will surely relate to the currency. Salmond said the other day that an independent Scotland and the remaining parts of the UK would be friendly countries with a common currency. However, that depends on the BoE and the remaining British Parliament, not to mention the British people, agreeing. After the mess created by the euro with a common currency without political union I don’t think we would be too happy about it.

    • Dimoto

      Salmond’s “strategy” (such as it is), has been obvious for years, and was demonstrated again today with his “end of the UK nonsense” remark.
      It is to continuously provoke his fellow-countrymen in England, in the hope of getting a reaction, then feeding on the inevitable Scottish backlash.
      That’s all he has really, most of his other “plans” fall apart at the slightest examination,
      The Commonwealth games in 2014 will play a large part in this. We can look forward to an unprecedented display of agitprop.
      My guess is that the Scots, by and large, will see it for what it is.
      It might even result in a more united UK.

    • Barry

      It’s called having your haggis and eating it.

      • John Adlington

        I love haggis

        • HooksLaw

          Its great and so are the neeps and tatties.

          • dorothy wilson


    • Lynda Williamson

      Sterling is a freely traded currency

  • Derek Ashwell

    Carrying on about my question on nationality.You could end up with a situation similar to what happened after the American Revolution, some people were for independance, some against and some didn’t care. A substantial number of people who were against independance moved north to Canada, could Scotland see an exodus of people and money.

    • Slicer

      I hope they don’t move south to England.

      • MarriedToAScot

        I was rather hoping some of the buggers would move back

    • eric45

      This could be the case, however I doubt it would be England, there are far nicer places to move to and better societies to live in. Canada, Australia and NZ would be the favourites.

  • anyfool

    It is funny that people still accept pollsters and statisticians at their word, given that they have a history of being wrong most of the time, they are usually wrong because of that known unknown as Donald Rumsfeld put it.
    Salmond can still win as in the next two years can anyone seriously think Cameron and/ or Darling will not cock it up.
    Wishful thinking but as valid as any poll for now.

    • dorothy wilson

      Actually Donald Rumsfeld did not originate the point about the unknown. It came from someone called Johal.

  • Daniel Maris

    Article 1 of the Act of Union 1707:

    “That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the
    First day of May which shall be in the year One thousand seven hundred and seven
    and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain”

    Clearly this is the basis of the UK – a permanent union. It cannot be dissolved by one element leaving the union, it can only be dissolved by both parties agreeing to dissolve the union. In that case the UK ceases to exist. If England (with Wales) and Northern Ireland wish to create a fresh union, that is for them to decide but there is no continuation of the UK. In such circumstances either BOTH Scotland and England/Northern Ireland have automatic membership of the EU as successor states OR NEITHER have such status and both have to re-apply.

    That much is clear.

    • Koakona

      Not according to the current President of the Commission.

      • Daniel Maris

        You’re saying the President of the Commission is an expert on the UK constitution?

        In terms of the UK constitution and the EU constitution I would say that both Scotland and England have to re-apply for membership.

        They’ll probably fudge it, as they usually do.

        Think of all the UK obligations based on previous UK population. Are you saying England will happily take those on without amendment. Of course not. It will argue that it is no longer the UK that signed up to those obligations.

        A voluntary dissolved union between two independent states creates two successor states. That is the logic. Of course politicians can completely ignore logic, but it will be a powerful basis for a legal challenge from the Scots.

        • Koakona

          No, I am saying that laws, treaties and precedent do not matter to these people as we have seen throughout the Euro crisis.

    • dorothy wilson

      Do you really think anyone in the EU would take any notice of an Act of the our Parliament passed in 1701?

      • MichtyMe

        More than a Act of Parliament, a Treaty between two sovereign states.

        • Daniel Maris

          The Act was replicated in both Parliaments – one year apart.

  • derek ashwell

    Could some kind, knowledgeable person tell me what, if the Scottish people vote for independance, happens to the nationality of people living in Scotland. Do they all become Scots or can they choose to stay British and if they choose to stay British do they become foreigners in their own land. A situation could arise where youv’e got more foreigners than nationals.

    • Daniel Maris

      Interesting question.

    • MichtyMe

      On dissolution of the UK, both Scotland and the other part will be sovereign states but will remain British, just as the sovereign states of Sweden and Denmark are Scandinavian.

      • Daniel Maris

        True, but it doesn’t answer the nationality question.

        It appears you can be English, resident in Scotland, vote against independence and then become a Scottish citizen, presumably while also being an English one. However, if you are born in England of Scottish parents, lived in Scotland from ages 2-18 but then lived outside Scotland you have no vote and no claim on being Scottish.

        • MichtyMe

          The Union State does not recognise Scots or English, just persons resident in Scotland or England and that determines who is on the electoral register and gets to vote. After Scotland and England become independent, their residents, as EU citizens, will share much the same rights along with the other Europeans. The Irish don’t seem t have much difficulties with this, I suppose you could chose if fussy or just not bother.

          • Daniel Maris

            Remember Florida – it could be an issue if the vote is very close and 20,000 English people resident in Scotland voting for independence for Scotland outweigh say 200,000 net Scots pro UK continuation outside Scotland.

            It could delegitimise a pro vote.

          • HooksLaw

            The Irish have spent the last 30 or 40 years having a lot of difficulty with this. As a lot of dead people will testify.

      • MarredToAScot

        Probably quite important to establish an early cut-off date determining residential qualification to vote in the ref. Wouldn’t want a couple of million English patriots nipping up to Scotland for a few months, purely for the purpose of establishing the right to vote in the ref.

      • HooksLaw

        Yes but they are either Swedish or Danish. You are not answering the question, which strikes me as a good one.

    • eric45

      “A situation could arise where you’ve got more foreigners than nationals.” – Some say it’s already the case in the cities and in much of the Highlands.

      You’re referring to the thorny issue of identity, something never raised by politicians in a country going through rapid demographic change.

  • David Lindsay

    Some of us have been pointing out for years that Spain would veto any admission of an independent Scotland to the EU. (Nor would an independent Scotland which retained
    sterling have a seat on the Monetary Policy Committee. What an extraordinary suggestion.)

    Now that this is accepted by pretty much everyone, the separatist cause is effectively dead, insofar as it was ever really alive. The EU was always the making of it. On the eve of British accession, Scottish Nationalism was peculiar to Gaelic back-to-the-land fantasists, Stuart restorationists, and people who had been expelled from the Communist Party.

    Scotland returned a few Liberals from the Far North and other remote areas, nominally in favour of Home Rule but hardly outspoken about it and in any case representative of places that voted solidly against it when they were given the chance in 1979. The rest of Scottish MPs were members either of something actually called the Scottish Unionist Party, or else of a Labour Party at least equally wedded to the Union as the source of all things Socialist in the post-War British sense of the word.

    You do not need to be anything approaching as obvious and genuine a national entity as Scotland or Catalonia for the EU to accord you the trappings, but only the trappings, of nationhood: a flag, an anthem, an international dialling code, and that sort of thing. Anywhere can have them. So long as it renounces any hope of self-government and submits instead to the rule of the EU.

    Anywhere, that is, which is not a secession from an existing member-state. That precedent has never been set. Nor will it ever be. Alex Salmond’s hopes of being able to prance around like some Kenneth Kaunda in the cold, though mercifully without the power to execute people or indeed to do anything very much else, have been well and truly dashed.

    • mortysmith

      Why on earth would Spain particularly care?

      • David Lindsay

        If Scotland can secede from a member-state and retain EU membership, then so can Catalonia. And so, in principle, could the Basque Country.

        • mortysmith

          Ah, good point.

        • Alex Buchan

          in the EU Commission has given a briefing that the EU has no legal mechanism
          for any part of EU territory leaving the EU. Neither Scotland nor Catalonia can
          legally leave the EU against the wishes of their people. The only issue is the
          exact nature of the agreement between the new entity as a new member and the
          existing EU. In this process there is no way Spain or anyone else can get that
          territory out of the EU they can only try to play hardball over the conditions
          but the territory can also threaten to leave with taking its natural resources
          with it.

          • Koakona

            Except Barroso has been out an about saying Scotland would have to apply and as we all know it does not matter what the treaties say it’s all about what the chaps in charge want at the time.

            • Daniel Maris

              There is the ECJ – it’s not in the President’s gift.

              On the basis of the Act of Union, the Scottish Government will be able to bring a case that both England and Scotland must be treated the same.

              • MichtyMe

                House of Commons – Scottish Affairs Committee – Minutes of Evidence – Witnesses Patrick Layden TD QC, Scottish Law Commission, Professor Andrew Scott University of Edinburgh gave evidence.
                Prof Scott. I think that Patrick is absolutely right that the Union of GB & NI would no longer exist ( after Scotland votes to withdraw from the Union) both parts of the UK would be in the same situation but my view is that both would be continuing members of the EU. Of course they would have to negotiate, there would have to be treaty amendments, which would have to be unanimously agreed upon but they would be negotiated from within rather than outside. 6/8/12

                • David Lindsay

                  Who asked him?

                • Stuart Eels

                  David Lindsay
                  Now you are just getting hissy! as an Englishman I wish the SNP God’s speed and good luck in their campaign as do the majority of all the English.
                  To have the EU turn as hissy as you and throw us out as well as Scotland would be a very welcome bonus, why we would have even more reason for street parties across the nation of England!

                • Daniel Maris

                  Michty Me –

                  I agree with Professor Scott! But no one can predict how judges will view these things. Still. let us agree Scott has put it logically.

                  I am glad all three of us agree and that it is nonsense to talk of Scotland “leaving” the union. The union will be dissolved by agreement of both parties if the Scots vote for independence.

          • Daniel Maris

            Yes, but is England’s position any different to Scotland’s in that position? I submit no – both will have to “renegotiate” the terms of their EU membership.

        • MichtyMe

          But it is not a secession, it is a dissolution of a Union, which will create two successor states of equal status.

          • David Lindsay

            Again, Salmond’s been saying that for years, but … well, see above.

            And no, it wouldn’t be. Neither England nor Scotland is a party to this Union. They were parties to the one before that, the one of 1707. The present one is the one of 1800, between the Kingdom of Great Britain (created in 1707) and the Kingdom of Ireland (the remnant of which, as party to that Union, is present-day Northern Ireland).

            • MichtyMe

              There was no Union Treaty with a sovereign Irish state, 1800 was Unilateral. The Union was created by treaty between the sovereign states of Scotland and England. There are no Irish or Welsh signatures on any Treaty.

              • David Lindsay

                Wales is a very strange case. Until the nineteenth-century temperance legislation, it had arguably never existed as a political, rather than a cultural entity; the Welsh-speaking states had simply been subsumed into the Kingdom of England much as, and not much later, than the Anglo-Saxon ones had been.

                But Ireland entered into a Union with Great Britain in 1800, all right. That is the state in which we still live, 26 counties of which seceded in 1922, but that was all. The fundamental character of the Union was not altered. It dates from 1800, not from 1707.

                The parties are the previously existing Kingdom of Great Britain and previously existing the Kingdom of Ireland. That latter is now significantly smaller than it was in 1800, but that makes no difference. Nor would it make any difference if the former became significantly smaller than it was in 1800.

                Neither England nor Scotland is a party to the present Union. They were the parties to the Union before this one, which has not existed for 212 years.

                • Daniel Maris

                  I agree with MichtyMe –

                  There was no independent Kingdom of Ireland to be united with England om 1800. All that happened was that a regional parliament was closed down, just as the Scottish Parliament could be closed down tomorrow if the UK Parliament decided so.

                  Wales’s status is also completely dependent on England in a legal sense.

                  The heart of the legal union is between England and Scotland. Scotland will not leave. The union will be dissolved.

                • HooksLaw

                  there was indeed a Kingdom of Ireland. it had its own parliament too.

    • telemachus

      Cannot see much difference from Slovakia or the Czechs or for that matter Croatia and Slovenia.
      I think your concerns are spurious.
      The Scots would be better off without the yoke of the English or the City

      • David Lindsay

        Those weren’t existing member-states.

        Spain has pretty much said this in so many words now. It’s all over.

        • JPJ2

          Lindsay-you have been chuntering out this drivel for yonks. Far more likely is that the Catalonian election in November will lead to a majority of those elected supporting a referendum on independence.
          The threatened military response from Spain will be contrary to both EU and UN stances-that will really put the cat among the pigeon,s and is a far more realistic interpretation of future events than your nonsense!

    • MichtyMe

      No admission required, Scotland has been part of the territory of the EU for over four decades and its people are legally EU citizens. After dissolution of the Union England and its appendages will also be independent, do they also require readmission?

      • David Lindsay

        That’s what Salmond has been saying for years. But it turns out not to be true. Or, at the very least, it turns out that there would have to be treaty changes to accommodate it, those changes would require unanimity, and no Spanish Prime Minister would ever countenance them, since they would establish the precedent that Spain’s own richest region could secede and retain EU membership.

        • MichtyMe

          How could Spain possibly alter the territorial integrity of the EU, its impossible.

          • David Lindsay

            Tell them that. Go on.

            But they wouldn’t be trying. Scottish independence would be what had done that.

            You can’t secede from an existing member-state and retain membership. Everyone except the SNP has been saying that forever. On this as on so many other things, the SNP’s independence-as-the-answer-to-every-question falls to pieces when the question is independence. The next two years are going to destroy the SNP.

      • Daniel Maris

        My point is that this depends on the interaction with the EU constitution but whatever Scotland has to do, the same applies to England, both will be successor states to the UK. If England wants to call itself “the United Kingdom” that’s fair enough – no copyright on names as the two Congos will tell you – but it won’t be the United Kingdom of Great Britain, since Great Britain is the whole island of England (with Wales) and Scotland.

      • HooksLaw

        Scotland are seeking to secede from an existing state, they are the ones who would have to apply.

    • Bob339

      You are right but you have forgotten the Idiot Rule under which people are compelled to do the most idiotic thing they can. This rule is all too frequently obeyed.