No breakthrough yet for either side over Scotttish independence

On opinion  in favour of a separate Scottish State, the British Social Attitudes survey reports little change.

The 32% who supported independence was nine points higher than in 2010 but two points lower than in 2005…. However, the research also suggested 43% of people in Scotland wanted Holyrood to make “all” decisions.

The higher figure emerged in a question in which the word “independence” was not used, and where a second option on so-called devo-max – more power short of independence – was given.

The leading opinion analyst John Curtice has pronounced:

This survey suggests that over the long run, there is no trend in one direction or the other.

But not all the news is good for the “Better Together” Union  cause. While they are insisting on trying to  restrict the referendum to the single question of independence, they have failed so far  to answer the question of how they would deal with the apparently growing demands for devo max. These demands are not unanswerable but for as long as they leave this vacuum,  those demands are likely to grow and might even diminish support for the Union. Even on pro-Union impact of the  economic arguments, the results are not entirely clear, as the Herald reports.

53% of Scots believe independence will result in higher taxes….just 34% of the population believe the nation’s economy would be stronger outside the UK, 29% say it would be weaker while 26% feel it would make no difference. Asked about the standard of living, 34% say it would be stronger with independence, 23% feel it would be weaker while 34% believe it would make no difference….But while the survey shows most Scots are unconvinced independence will bring economic benefits, it says the balance of expectations across other areas is positive towards it.

This shows there is a good deal of confusion over referendum issues which both sides of the argument can exploit.  So far, neither of them has come anywhere near producing a clincher.

In an interesting article on Quebec where the separatist Parti Quebecois have just formed a minority government, Peter Jones in the Scotsman poses a potential strategic dilemma for the SNP in the future. Identity politics will continue to exert a powerful pull that may get them re-elected, but the public can become fed up with the ultimate question being put to them again and again.

Meanwhile closer to earth but still speculative, Alan Trench in Comment Is Free says Jose Manuel Barroso’s latest speech casts further doubt on an independent Scotland’s  automatic membership of the EU. I still believe  that whatever the legal complications, this would be sorted politically by the member states in Scotland’s favour – perhaps with a delay while they decided that it would not turn out to be a basket case like Greece.  But in the current debate leading up to the 2014 referendum, this is a theme which turns the spotlight back on the economy and so favours a form of continuing Union.

Adds.  I’ve just noticed that Alex Salmond was booed by part of the crowd as he was interviewed at the Welcome Home for Scotland’s Olympic stars in Glasgow. Aggrieved Rangers supporters or new Unionists – which,  I wonder?  Not that the incident got much coverage, compared to George Osborne’s at the Paralympics.  This Spectator blog gives a flavour of reaction


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London