Challenges ahead of a #ScotRef (or #IndyRef2) will cut both ways…


Today’s Polling Matters podcast has a useful conversation between host Keiran Pedley and Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a real anti-hype piece in which she does a good job of honing in on some of the crunch areas of #ScotRef (the updated SNP version of #IndyRef2).

In her piece for the Herald today she covers some of the same ground (though in nothing like the same detail). One key is the shifting ground under both sides because of the very different context between this referendum and the one in September 2014:

…the argument about an independent Scotland offering a different vision of society, one in which the gap between rich and poor was smaller, was not only a predictor of support for Yes but was gaining traction as referendum day approached.

By referring to the type of Scotland we want to be – one that is “open, welcoming, diverse and fair” – Nicola Sturgeon was picking up where Yes Scotland left off in 2014, and using an argument that had been pulling voters towards her campaign.

Changes in context are relevant. The No arguments from 2014 about the risk of economic uncertainty – that we’re better off pooling our power in larger entities – will ring slightly hollow given the uncertainty over Brexit.


the No arguments about low public appetite for a referendum are not to be dismissed. Initial interest in holding a snap independence poll immediately following the June referendum dissipated and there is now limited appetite for another referendum – with opinion divided on timing even among those who want one.

There is also the undeniable fact that support for independence hovers between 43 and 50 per cent. As late as June 2014 support for Yes was in the low- to mid-30s. It therefore increased 10-15 percentage points by referendum day.

It is unlikely we will see similar movement and likely that we are facing a situation more akin to 1995 in Quebec (where, two months out, Yes and No were pretty level).

That seems reasonable, particularly if you balance last year’s disappointing show in the Scottish Parliamentary elections for pro-Independence parties as compared to Labour’s Westminster wipe out the year before.  In the podcast however, she points to one key difference between Quebec and Scotland.

In Quebec after several near misses support for independence went through the floor in part the Professor argues because Quebec’s Governments have made full use of sub-sovereign power. That’s certainly not been the case in Scotland. But do listen to the whole thing.