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?

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