Analysis: Why Nicola Sturgeon-Boris Johnson comparison is helping independence

There was a time, not so long ago, when polls showing majority support among Scots for independence were a rare occurrence, widely dismissed as "outliers" by the country's eminent psephologists.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 11:58 am
All polls now say most Scots want independence
All polls now say most Scots want independence

Even throughout the last referendum campaign such results were rare and an oddity, with the general sweep of surveys indicating clear support for the union.

Not any more.

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Scottish independence: Boris Johnson cannot continue to 'just say no' as support rises – Scotsman comment
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has seen very high approval ratings in a recent poll

Since the start of the year, something seismic appears to have shifted on the constitutional issue among voters, with consistent majorities for leaving the UK. And, crucially, across all pollsters.

The latest IPSOS/Mori survey this week may be the most striking yet, with 58 per cent support recorded for independence. But this is no outlier. It ties in with consistent findings throughout the year showing most Scots now want to leave the UK.

Brexit has certainly been a powderkeg issue for people north of the Border where two-thirds voted to Remain in the EU, but the weight of votes south of the Border swung the outcome in favour of Leave.

But the latest poll also suggests that Nicola Sturgeon's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has influenced attitudes to independence.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

Polling guru Sir John Curtice points to findings which show 55 per cent of ‘No’ voters think Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job, while Boris Johnson is doing a bad one.

The voting analyst cautioned against drawing any conclusion that backing for Scotland leaving the UK had surged, but said the contrast between the leaders had almost certainly “persuaded some former ‘no’ voters to change sides”.

Indeed, just 33 per cent of unionists were satisfied with the Prime Minister. It seems likely that No voters from 2014 are switching sides. It comes on the back of a similar weekend poll by Survation, which also suggested support shifting towards independence.

Sir John said: “The Brexit argument is working to Nicola Sturgeon’s advantage, the competence argument is probably working in her favour, but the area where the independence side is weakest is on the economy.”

Ms Sturgeon has already pledged to publish legislation in coming months setting out the "terms and timing" of a second referendum on independence. Boris Johnson, who has control over the constitution, says ‘no way’.

It heightens the significance of next year's Holyrood poll.

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