Brexit fuelling surge in support for Scottish independence, according to polling guru John Curtice

Posted On: 
4th February 2020

Brexit is fuelling a surge in support for Scottish independence, according to a leading polling guru.

Support for independence is on the rise.
Credit: 
PA Images

Professor Sir John Curtice said Remainers who had previously backed the Union were now flocking to the nationalist cause.

And he said that Boris Johnson's continued refusal to let the Scottish government have another independence referendum could end up backfiring.

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In 2014, Scots voted 55% to 45% in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom.

But three opinion polls in recent days have all suggested that there is now a majority in favour of independence north of the border.

Professor Curtice said that support for the Union had remained largely unchanged in the wake of the EU referendum in 2016, but that was now changing.

"After the 2016 referendum some people who voted No and Remain did swich to Yes, but equally there were also people who voted Yes and Leave who switched to No," he said.

"In 2019, support is higher and where does the increase come? It comes wholly and entirely amongst those who voted Remain.

"So it was already very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the pursuit of Brexit was indeed at the margin undermining support for the Union. But given that we're starting 55/45, at the margin is potentially crucial.

"And then the story of the three polls that have come out either side of the weekend, now average support [for independence] is 51%. The YouGov poll and the Survation poll that came out yesterday again confirm that the increase in support is among Remain voters.

"So the message has to be towards Brexit-inclined Unionists is 'you might like it to be true that the UK should leave whole and entire but the world is not shaped how you would like it to be and that in practice, at the moment at least, the pursuit of Brexit is costing you support in Scotland'."

However, the Strathclyde University lecturer warned the SNP that Scots voters remained unconvinced about key aspects of their case for independence.

He said: "It's still very clear that the nationalist movement still have to convince people about the economics of independence, its also clear that the SNP's position on currency is still way, way all over the place so far as the public is concerned.

"And there is of course that really awkward question that will arise if Scotland tries to pursue independence with a view to rejoining the European Union, which is what would happen to the border between Gretna and Berwick."

On the Prime Minister's refusal to allow so-called "indyref2", Professor Curtice said: "It is not 100% that the UK simply saying 'no' will stop it happening.

"It seems pretty clear that the SNP recognise that it's not going to happen this year, but it's equally that they will continue to press the issue and these kind of opinion poll numbers will just encourage them to do so."