200 No to Yes voters tell us why they now believe in Scotland


Believe in Scotland surveyed 3,226 Yes supporters to take the temperature of the movement on a few key issues and we published the overall results last week. Roughly 6% of the respondents who would now vote Yes said that they voted No in 2014.

We asked them; If you voted ‘No’ in 2014 but would now vote Yes to Scottish independence, what were the deciding factors that inspired you to change your mind?

There were many answers offered, indeed one response ran to 1,600 words, and all those useful and insightful answers will help improve our messaging. Most respondents offered multiple motivating factors and so we have calculated how often each issue was mentioned as a key driver of the No to Yes switch.

This is what changed their minds:

  • 60% Said that a key motivation to switch to Yes was Brexit, they feel lied to, some felt stupid for believing the UK would stay in the EU. Thus the prospectus for independece must include an independent Scotland rejoining the EU or joining EFTA to access the Europoan single market or the Yes side wont win.
  • 40% Said that the incompetence and uncaring nature of the UK Government and the relentless move towards right wing politics and austerity was a key motivating factor. Much of this criticism centred around Brexit and mismanagement of the health crises.
  • 26% Said they felt lied to, that the promises made by politicians, from staying in the EU, pensions being safer in the UK, the vow and more powers not being delivered.
  • 19% Stated that they had become more educated and now had more belief in Scotland and its economy and therefore its ability to thrive as an independent nation. About half of this cohort stated that they had read Scotland the Brief and about half stated they had read up on The McCrone report as part of their learning process.
  • 17% Said a key reason to switch to Yes was an increasing belief that the NHS was not safe as part of the Union. About half of these responses used the more positive language that the NHS was safer in Scotland’s hands.
  • 6% Said they had become sick of the media always talking Scotland down, with some saying that either it has worsened since 2014 or they had been blind to it.
  • About 5% mentioned Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership in general and emphasised her leadership during the health crises.

The results were conclusive and were almost universally ‘away from’ motivations. That is to say that people have switched to Yes largely as they feel let down, disappointed in, or lied to by the UK and its government. As opposed to a “Towards Motivation” which would include answers such as ‘I think we can build a fairer, greener more successful nation through independence’. We can also see that trend in the 40% stating a negative opinion of the UK Government, most naming Boris Johnson himself but only 5% mentioning the positive leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. Feelings about the UK Government not performing must by their nature be comparative but the dominance of the ‘away from’ motivation is clear.

This is actually very good news for the Yes movement in strategic terms. In indyref1 the Yes side had very little negativity to play with, the UK didn’t seem broken to most people, David Cameron wasn’t seen as untrustworthy or completely incompetent and certainly not as a “clown” a word used by some of the switchers to describe the current PM.

So, the UK seemed to still be OK for those that couldn’t see either where the UK was headed or were frightened of or resistant to change. Now after Brexit and the health crises the ballance of risk has switched to staying part of the UK.

As a result, but also partly as the Yes campaign started at around 27% in the pollsin 2001, the Yes campaign was relentlessly positive. The problem was that the White Paper was dry, boring, and uninspiring – there was no truly positive vision for people to buy into. It offered a slightly left of centre version of what we had as part of the UK. It was aimed as much at destroying the Labour vote in Scotland if Yes lost, as it was winning the referendum. A clever secondary goal but starting at around 50% Yes means indyref2 is all about winning and to do that we need to keep the approximate current 5% increase in the Yes vote (polling had it as high as a 13% in Jan 2021) and add another 5-10% by promoting an inclusive, fairer, safer more resilient, greener, happier, and successful Scotland as the key message in indyref2. In other words, we need to make the wellbeing of our nation the shared goal of our newly independent nation. Nothing less than an inspiring vision of how to improve Scotland’s wellbeing as a nation will do the job.

Around 45% of the Scottish population are naturally resistant to change due to their personality type (Myers Briggs ISTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ, ESTJ personality types). Fortunately, the Corporate Change Industry has detailed how to manage change with these personality types and that offers clear direction for indyref2.

  • The Yes side must offer clarity and explain our vision for independence in logical terms.
  • Communicate in an open and honest and inclusive way
  • Be clear and discuss the objectives, goals, and vision of where the change will lead.
  • Offer a clear timeline and plan of action to manage the change
  • Don’t overreach or over-promise. The Scottish population is ready for change now in a way that it wasn’t in 2014 they will step forward into the light but not take a leap in the dark.
  • Explain the values (that they share) that underpin our vision for Scotland and our plan to build a better nation.
  • Let them know how it will affect them, their local communities, and the local economy.
  • Involve them in the process and ask their opinions and for their advice – We need to make indyref2 a conversation about a better future, not a political slagging match.
  • Use facts to back up the reason for making the change to independence and this requires a fully costed new economic vision for Scotland based on a wellbeing economic approach, not the now outdated ‘don’t scare the horses’ approach of the Sustainable Growth Commission.

There is at least a year’s work to be done to get the new improved case for independence ready. One that combines the ‘away from’ and ‘towards’ motivations that will bring 60% Yes into view. Given that we need to offer those resistant to change enough time to process the change and absorb its benefits, we don’t see indyref2 happening before May 2023. Before anyone wonders, if the SNP Government could have started this work earlier, remember that the opportunity that is presenting itself is a response to Brexit and the Health Crises. The issues of Brexit are taking longer to manifest than anyone imagined and with winter approaching the economic impact of the health crises may not yet be fully behind us. We progress at the speed of the undecided, the soft Yes and No voters who are resistant to change. However, it will become clearer in November that major progress is being made on creating that inspiring vision. 

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