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Blogs Coffee House

Scotching a myth: Scotland is not as left-wing as you think it is

21 May 2014

11:58 AM

21 May 2014

11:58 AM

Alex Salmond and David Cameron have more in common than a shared appreciation for Andy Murray’s tennis. Not, of course, that you would ever persuade either of them to admit that.

At the very least, their supporters are more alike than either man would like you to believe. A new survey commissioned by Dundee University’s Five Million Questions project confirms as much. On a range of issues SNP supporters are as close, or closer, to Tory voters as they are to Labour voters:

This will not surprise diehard leftists, of course. If the First Minister was ever a socialist he ceased to be a comrade long ago and if SNP voters think* like Tories that may be because a good number of them used to be Tories.

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The poll, in which Survation asked 1003 Scots for their views, also confirms another truth Scotland’s blethering classes prefer to deny: this is a much more right-wing country than it is thought to be.

True, Scots are more likely than other Britons to identify with the left but when it comes to actual individual policies they are much closer to the British average than is commonly presumed. Nice, kind, progressive Scotland is a myth as cherished as it is, well, mythical. Clear majorities of Scots favour tougher immigration** controls and tougher welfare policies. Even in Glasgow, 47 per cent of poll respondents support workfare programmes.

The referendum is sometimes caricatured as a choice between cuddly social democratic Scotland and ruthless neoliberal Britain. It’s a point of view, certainly. Though one you might think dented by the awkward fact that the differences in attitude between Yes supporters and No supporters are much less substantial than sometimes claimed:

*A note on methodology: the figures in these charts are based on Westminster voting intention. That is: diehard Tories and diehard Nationalists.

**A small problem for the SNP, incidentally, since their economic policies depend on high levels of immigration into an independent Scotland.

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