Mixed polling results leave it all to play for in the May v Sturgeon battle over Scottish independence

The war of words between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May might  been expected  to boost Scottish support for  Indyref2 and independence. If so it hasn’t happened yet. The first snapshot of  a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times coinciding with the SNP spring conference but  before Nicola Surgeon spoke is not immediately  encouraging for her, with NO to independence recording at 56% and YES at 44%. However 44% still thought Scotland would become independent within the next 5-10 years compared with just  26%  believing it would not happen at any point in the next few decades.

This poll follows the   trend  in YouGov’s  UK Polling report . The results are mixed and show that caution is called for. Opinion poll guru Professor John Curtice says of his long term polling survey: “Even if nothing happens, playing the long game points to rising support for independence. Scotland is a very different place from where it was four years ago, but it is also far more eurosceptic.”

This explains  the SNP’s  shift away  this week from aggressive support for the doomed policy of full EU membership  to attacking the Tories for entering the Article 50 negotiations  with a hard Brexit strategy which they and  Remain supporters generally believe could be economically disastrous.

Sturgeon is demanding that Indyref 2 should be held in late 2108 or early 2019 when she claims the  Brexit terms will be clear but the UK would not yet have withdrawn, leaving  a Scotland which had just voted for independence still within the EU and therefore in a better position to join the EU as a separate state relatively quickly. There are two flaws in her case.

First, the negotiations might have crashed  or even if agreement is reached, the terms of new trade deals almost certainly will not been agreed. Scots would therefore not be fully informed of  wbat they were voting for.  In addition a longish transition period of up to 10 years’ continuing free trade with the EU would muddy the waters of the indyref tide.

Secondly by 2018 an SNP government in power for 11 years, will be competing for reputation with a Conservative or Conservative-led government for 8 years. As John Curtice suggests, the SNP’s star may have fallen by then and  by the time of  the Westminster general election due in 2020.

The Scottish Government has a country to run. It is beginning to get somewhat less than a star billing. YouGov reported that almost as many people (42%) now think the Scottish Government is running ‘education and schools’ badly, as think it is doing so well (44%). Approval of the government’s record on schools and education has been in more or less continuous decline since YouGov first began asking this question in the autumn of 2015. Meanwhile on the NHS slightly more people (48%) reckon the Scottish Government is performing badly as think it is doing well (45%). Again these figures too have been moving somewhat in a negative direction over time.

If Theresa May were to be successful in delaying a second independence referendum, not just until after Brexit but also until after the next Scottish Parliament in May 2021, the SNP will need voters to think the party has been doing a good job in running the nation’s public services. Otherwise they might not elect a majority of pro-independence MSPs once again. In that event its chances of holding a second ballot will have disappeared entirely.


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  • burnboilerburn

    What the SNP have on their side is time. While the negotiations are ongoing with Europe, every fail will be painted in Scotland as tory disaster and every success painted as the tories favouring their middle England constituency. Unionists have to hope that the talks are clean and the result is smooth. Unlikely at the moment.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t get this, ignore the “doomed policy of full EU membership” but take the doomed policy of Brexit where the main policy is sit back and the world will come to Britain and conform to all its whims.

    Secondly the SNP and the Greens are not the only forces for independence, the Scottish people will be free to make their minds up on this.

    Thirdly the Conservatives have a honeymoon period until it’s forced into “buck stops with them” decisions. Mocking the Scottish independence cause while being a poor advert for so called “British Independence” coming across a tunnel visioned fiscally inept, socially ignorant flag-waving exercise. The Conservatives are showing no signs of independence, just teenage outbursts and jevenile entitlements.

    The SNP aren’t the ones evangelising sepratism, it’s the British government that’s doing that.

    The SNP aren’t the ones evangelising stifling apathetic political unions, it’s the British government doing that.

    If the Scottish are growing more Eurosceptic, then what does that make the English? Europhobic?

    And so what! Every Irish nationalist Eurosceptic I know don’t see the UK as some shield to hide behind to keep the EU out the way the likes of Edwin Potts seems to think.

    The United Kingdom will not be united by fearing NATO allies, foreign workers, single markets, Ireland, or mature discussions with our near neighbours in European institutions.

    All this talk about identity, and they cannot identify common ground with the SNP and their voters to hold their nation together. The UK government really seems to have learnt nothing from Irish independence about creating “foreigners within”.

  • 1729torus

    Interestingly, there is now a tacit alliance between Nicola Sturgeon and George Osborne now that he’s editor of the Evening Standard.

    May fals to appreciate that politics is an iterated game, and that if you’re rude to people, they’ll remember.

  • Muiris

    The most important thing that the SNP must do, is to govern well, so that they can still influence the political agenda.

  • chrisjones2

    You ignore the key issue. On Health and Education they are increasingly seeen as incompetent. Who will then trust them with running a country?

    As SF and the DUP have found, in the long run, the donkey wrapped in the flag is still a donkey

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…and there is little sign on that

  • chrisjones2

    “Secondly the SNP and the Greens are not the only forces for independence”

    Really – which one has a cat in hell’s chance of election?

    “being a poor advert for so called “British Independence” ” – you are looking through green tinted glasses. Scots voters now place the Conservatives at 25% as second largest party. The SNP has 46%. As Arlene has found out one good scandal can change that very very quickly

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…Nicola should be careful. Worst of all she might get what she has asked for

  • burnboilerburn

    Who will trust them above Tory london? Thats the key question.

  • Lex.Butler

    Can one assume May’s private polling had indicated little stomach for a new referendum before she came North and had a go at Sturgeon? It was calculated stuff, a bit like Thatcher and Scargill and Sturgeon fell for it. The SNP is riding high mainly because of the eclipse of Labour.

  • mac tire

    “On Health and Education they are increasingly seeen as incompetent.”

    Just like the Tories then? Yet they are trusted to run a country. And in case it has escaped your notice, Theresa May has wrapped herself in a flag consistently since she was installed as leader.
    Your hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  • chrisjones2

    Not your choice and the voters will decide.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh right you don’t have your union flag glasses on?

    I have seen absolutely nothing from the “Brexit movement” as an independence movement. It’s a complete dependency movement if not a dependency stasis. It depends on the EU, the Commonwealth, Ireland, Trump’s America, Emerging markets throughout the world, NATO, pretty much the rest of the world lifting the UK onto to a pedestal of where it used to be.

    It has no sense of taking the blame for its own actions, but will idolly sit by and glory in the reflective glory of others achievements as if they were their own.

    It has no sense of taking the blame for its own inactions, it will idolly criticise others while its own problems fester.

    It has no sense that actions and labour change the fate of a place not speeches and platitudes and attitudes.

  • eamoncorbett

    So who will take SNP seats in Scotland, Tories are toxic , Labour unelectable, Lib Dems lame , UKIP say no more.

  • Gavin Smithson

    True unionism will repeal all devolution bills and introduce PR to Scottish Westminster elections to ensure that one party does not monopolize all its seats bar 3 on just 50% of the vote

    Nationalism must be ignored and given no sanctuary. It must be inculcated that the UK is indissoluble.

    The UK should also petition FIFA to replace all so called ‘home nations’ with a single UK team. All civic, political and sporting organizations that are organized along ‘home nations’ should be reorganized along single U.K. structures and teams and management.

    Unionists should be aware that the opposite of unity is disunity. There is no half way house.

  • Katyusha


    Apart from that, absolutely spot on.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Probably meant idolatry given the amount of superstition involved.

  • Deeman

    “Geology is the study of pressure and time, that’s all it is, pressure and time.”

    Same for Irish and Scottish nationalism. Pressure and time.

  • Mark Petticrew

    According to a 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey, 63% of Scots said they would vote for independence if they were £500 richer. With the 45% from 2014 who’ve already voted for independence in mind, it can be gleaned from this that there’s a large crop of Scots who’re unconvinced of independence but crucially are not sentimental about the union itself, or at least any sentiment they have for it can be bought.

    If Sturgeon can adequately tap into this unconvinced market, appeal to their wallet and bring them aboard the pro-indy bandwagon, then Scottish independence might just have a possible path to victory in a future second referendum.

  • Salmondnet

    Convincing anyone that independence wiould make the Scots better off any time soon (yes, it could be possible in the long term) would, given the current oil price and the size of the Barnet subsidy, require an exceptionally accomplished liar.

  • Obelisk

    Brexit changes the terms of the debate. Now it can be portrayed as which option is going to make you less worse off.

  • leoinlisbon

    It is only a few years ago that the Labour Party in Scotland was viewed by almost everybody – not least the Labour Party itself – as electorally invincible.

  • eamoncorbett

    Yes indeed big changes in so short a time , Labour needs leadership and policies that people can relate to , maybe it’s time to study the Nordic idea of socialism which looks after the vulnerable but doesn’t hinder economic progress . Even if Corbyn was replaced tomorrow it would take 7to 8 years to become electable.

  • mac tire

    ” the opposite of unity is disunity…”
    Indeed – the disunited kingdom.

  • leoinlisbon

    There is a small group in Scotland proposing that Scotland should copy Scandinavia. (Lesley Riddoch is its main cheer leader.)
    Scotland’s main social and economic problems are associated with the fallout from the decline of heavy industry. It is very doubtful if we could learn much from ‘Our Friends in the North’ on this.

    Labour has still to hit rock bottom. That will be when they lose control of Glasgow in May.
    After that, the SNP will ‘own’ Scotland politically and its support is likely to slide.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Nichola seems to be saying something similar to what you are saying back at May.


  • Ray Lawlor

    “monopolize all its seats bar 3 on just 50% of the vote”

    Gavin… you do realise that the Tories hold a majority in Westminster on 37% of the vote?

    Watch this video that helps explain things:

  • Kevin Breslin

    The old U.K. was already dissolved when part of Ireland left, despite an all-Ireland team and disputes no devolution or home rule.

    Do people really think Scottish nationalism exists because of Scottish football teams and devolution, likewise with Irish nationalism?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SNP back STV yet the only unionists who back PR are Lib Dems, UKIP, the PUP and a few Labour types.

  • John Collins

    Does that mean that PR will be introduced UK wide for Westminster elections, because if it is not and Scotland is treated differently that may well rebound on the Tories in Scotland and if their vote was to fall much below 25 percent their number of seats would be very low with PR, unless there was multi seat constituencies and that is not going to happen.

  • William Beedie

    Considering a hostile media, the SNP managed 56 /59 Westminster seats and are first party in Scotland with over 1 million votes and 47% of the electorate, of course education is going through a flunky, Curriculum for Excellence is being updated all the time, NHS a&be waiting times are pretty poor at 98% of people being seen within 4 hours, compared to England’s great 78%.
    The people of Scotland have woken up to a nation who have stolen and lied to them for 310 years and Mayhem is running scared that EU negotiations will flounder as the best incentives to allowing the London financial markets access will be seen as not being hers to hand over ie the Scottish fishing grounds that Dutch, Irish,Spanish, French German and Danish boats all need access to

  • William Beedie

    So only British nationalism is allowed, let’s see you sell that to the Scots

  • Steptoe


  • The Irishman

    Care to back that up with some examples?

  • Kevin Breslin

    As a republican I would see the UK as making progress introducing a fair electoral system. It would reveal the democratic deficit was not created by Brussels but by this unrepresentative form of an election contest.

  • Anon Anon

    How exactly can you comment on rising anything on polls without noting the polarization that has occured post IndyRef and particularly post Brexit?

    “Euroscepticism” is up because the Unionist parties have backed Brexit. Support for the Union implies support for Euroscepticism. Is it up as much? Is there really significant Euroscepticism in the Yes side, or did a percentage vote tactically in the hope of using it to trigger a second referendum. Sturgeon fairly nixed the Euroscepticism line yesterday by stating they’d go for full EU membership. EFTA might enjoy a necessary bridge.

    The Tories have also been hammering the “day job” line, so is the rise here primarily driven from this group or is to leaking to other groups? The headline figures for the SNP seem solid.

    Are there a lot less don’t knows than last time, or is the polarization more complete?

    So many interesting questions, absolutely bigger all on them here.