Referendum blues

Bad news for the Yes campaign for Scottish independence, analysed by the psephological  guru of gurus John Curtice. It’s a debate worth following not only for its own sake but for  how issues wider than the border itself might feed into any referendum debate in Ireland.

First off, the headline: just 23% now say that “Scotland should become separate, independent from the rest of the UK”. That’s nine percentage points lower than last time round in 2011…Going beyond that headline finding, there’s further disappointment for the Yes campaign. In 2011 no less than 67% reckoned independence would result in more people having pride in their country, while 51% felt it would mean that Scotland had a stronger voice in the world. Those figures have now eased back to 55% and 42% respectively….

Only 34% believe that Scotland’s economy would be better under independence – and the economy appears to be a particularly important consideration in shaping people’s support or opposition to independence.

Meanwhile, only 19% reckon the gap between rich and poor would become smaller if Scotland were independent – contrary to the claims made by many a nationalist politician in the wake of the recent controversy about the UK coalition’s cuts in welfare benefits.

By contrast David Cameron’s “in, out” referendum offer on the EU presents an opportunity to  the Scottish independence camp, according to some –first, the Scotsman

David Cameron has lobbed a grenade into the debate on Scottish independence…. Surely someone must have pointed out that the independence referendum could now be portrayed by some as a vote to secure Scotland’s place in the European Union.

Alex Massie in the Spectator is more measured:

England’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity. That is the theory and it carries some weight. Cameron’s British Unionism is threatened by his party’s scepticism of the European Union and it is imperilled in ways that I suspect his party neither appreciates nor much cares about. The sorry truth is that many English Tories care much more about the future of Europe than they do about the future of the United Kingdom.

This last point may well be true – at any rate the Conservatives still have it all to do to disprove it. Massie also surely right, that Europe will not play big in the Scottish referendum campaign. After all the Scottish referendum is actual while the European one is doubly hypothetical – will Cameron will a majority in the next election and would he recommend a “ yes” vote after a successful renegotiation?

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  • I find this idea of the referendum campaign being “Scotland’s opportunity” (a phrase borrowed from Irish historicity) as rather perverse.

    Why is it so likely that a referendum on the European question improves the position of the separatists? You can actually argue the opposite. The European referendum is more likely to ‘beef up’ a weakening British identity (one of the key causes of increased Nationalist sentiment during recent years imho).

    There are also not as many pro-Europeans in Scotland as the Nationalist camp as some may like to think. Who is to say that the Europhile position of the SNP is not damaging their campaign? Dig deeper and you may find that it is one of the causes of the slump in support for independence.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I can see a UK departing the EU (driven by swivel-eyed Little Englanders) as being a less attractive prospect to wavering Scots than a centrist nation inside the EU, so I do think the doubts over our EU membership could help Alex Salmond.

    That said, I think Cameron came across yesterday as basically wanting to stay in the EU unless things go very badly in his ‘negotiations’. He’s dragging the country through an extended wild goose chase in order to see off a rump of nutters who inhabit part of the Tory party. Pretty appalling to take such risks with everyone’s prosperity to solve a marginal issue within one party.

  • Ruarai

    The thing is Brian, Cameron isn’t going to have a “successful renegotiation” with Europe, not a chance.

    He’s unleashed forces well beyond his control and we’re now well and truly into the era of unintended consequences.

    When flux of that magnitude is unleashed it tends to come to rest be orientating towards to the will of the greater power blocs. Since Cameron is on a Tory mission to reduce Britain’s standing within Europe while tub-thumping in little old England that bodes very ominously for any projects he hitches his wagon to.

    He’s unleashed a gale force wind in Europe. Does he even realize?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I suspect he’ll make (deniable) private noises in time to our EU partners to the effect that he has no intention whatsoever of taking Britain out of the EU; and ask them to bear with his attempts to head off the real nutters. One face for Europe, another for home, this is what Tory leaders end up doing, as they realise in office how important the EU actually is to the country’s place in the world and prosperity, while saddled with a rump in the party that is impervious to the world outside our shores.


    The problem is MU that having let the referendum cat out of the bag all sort of unexpected things can follow such as major international investors deciding that they want to be sure to invest in a country that will be within the EU in five years as opposed to one that may not be. And that is a problem for all of us in this troubled corner of europe.

  • BluesJazz

    UKIP could seriously undermine the chances of a majority Tory government in 2015.
    That’s what this is about. Cameron needs some red meat to throw to the right and fend off any serious UKIP challenge.
    We’re not going to leave the EU.
    The last thing we need is a Labour majority elected on false promises of jam tomorrow.
    This country desperatley needs a Conservative majority government prepared to tackle the deficit.
    In NI we need to take the hit as well, a £5 billion cut in the block grant in 2015, followed by lesser cuts in following years might knock reality into our vicar of Dibley assembly.

  • DougtheDug

    Good old Professor Curtice, the BBC’s favourite tame unionist pollster.

    The Scottish Social Attitudes isn’t a poll, it’s an ongoing survey of Scotland which still asks questions about devo-max which Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems didn’t want on the independence referendum ballot paper.

    This is the real story: