SNP win makes case for Scottish independence

But will Westminster allow a second referendum?

Nicola Sturgeon has come through a bruising few months following her protracted and very public battle with former bosom political buddy, Alex Salmond. And despite concerted opposition tactical voting meaning the SNP fell agonisingly short of an overall majority in the Holyrood elections, there are sufficient allies occupying the Scottish Parliamentary benches for the First Minister to pursue and push through most of the policy aims made during the election campaign.

Those at the top of the list include the recovery of the Scottish economy and the continuing battle with the Covid-19 virus. But it is no secret that Sturgeon’s ultimate political dream is a second Scottish Independence referendum and a reversal of the “No” decision that came in the first vote in 2014.

The majority in the Scottish Parliament are pro-independence, and Sturgeon’s personal popularity ratings have recovered well after the Salmond spat, leaving her ahead of all the other Scottish party leaders and a political mile in front of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But despite her current popularity and her wish for a second poll sooner rather than later, it is Johnson and Westminster barring the way to the chance of Scottish separation from the UK. Legally, the question of Scottish independence, and any vote on independence, is a matter for the UK Parliament. The 2014 referendum happened after Westminster agreed to give power to the Scottish Parliament to hold a one-off vote. That power is now lapsed and Boris Johnson has made it abundantly clear that he has absolutely no intention of going down a similar route at any time in the foreseeable future.

Nicola Sturgeon, despite arguing that the UK Parliament has a moral obligation to give the Scottish people the right to vote on their own future, has ruled out following the Catalan example of an illegal referendum, recognising the legal ramifications, upheaval and instability any such move would bring.

This does not mean, however, that the UK Parliament can put off the issue of Scottish independence indefinitely. Permitting the first referendum meant that the UK accepted, in principle, that Scotland can become an independent state, and if pro-independence parties continue to win elections it will eventually become untenable to refuse another vote. But that day remains far away, and even if Scotland finally gets a second referendum, will the people answer “Yes?”

What our surveys show

We asked in February whether Scotland should remain in the UK or become an independent nation, and our May survey shows a change. In February 42% said Scotland should stay in the UK as opposed to 35% in May. In February 33% said the Scots should be permitted to make their own decision with this figure now falling to 29%. However 25% now reckon Scotland should become independent whereas 19% said not last time. But should Scotland get a second referendum?

In our February poll, 45% said “Yes”, now risen to 56%. Back then, 46% answered “No,” now fallen to 32%. And bearing in mind the 55%- 45% Remain vote in 2014, what would be the outcome of any second referendum? For this question, we counted the answers overall, and those of Scottish only respondents. Overall 11% said there would be a higher margin to remain, while perhaps surprisingly,
more Scots, 22%, said the same. Remaining by the same margin was 26% overall and 21% Scots. Remaining by a smaller margin was 9% overall and 7% Scots. The “Leave” next time vote stood at 33% overall and 35% Scots. Finally the “don’t knows” numbered 21% overall and 15% Scots.

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