The opinion poll carried out by IPSOS Mori for STV which was published on Wednesday could not have come at a better time. Just a couple of days after the First Minister announced that campaigning for independence would ratchet up a gear in the New Year and that preparations would get underway later in 2022 for a second independence referendum in 2023, we have an opinion poll showing that support for independence is currently sitting at 55%, the mirror image of the outcome of the 2014 referendum which produced a 55% vote against independence, a result which the BBC at the time described as convincing. Significantly, the lead for yes produced in this poll is greater than the 3% margin of error which is standard in opinion polling. It is perhaps also significant that this is the first telephone poll we have seen in a good while.
This week’s poll is a fantastic and perfectly timed boost to the campaign announced by the First Minister, and ensures that soor faced British nationalists like Douglas Ross will be seen to be only speaking for themselves and the members of a Livingston flute band, and not Scotland as a whole when they claim that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum.
The poll also showed that the SNP’s domination of the Scottish political landscape continues unabated, and indeed is only strengthening, mostly at the expense of Labour and the Conservatives. A seat projection for Holyrood based on this poll would see an increase in SNP and Green representation with the SNP comfortably attaining an outright majority by themselves.
Wednesday’s poll was in fact the second in a week to vindicate the Scottish Government and the First Minister, another recent poll found that 53% in Scotland want a second independence referendum within the term of this Scottish Parliament. Not only do most people in Scotland want another referendum, but even as the campaign proper just starts to begin in earnest, we already have majority support for independence. Right now we are about as far out from the second referendum as we were from the first when Alex Salmond announced in March 2013 that the referendum would be held on 18 September 2014. during that eighteen month period determined and focused campaigning on the part of independence supporters took support for independence from the low 30s percentile to the 45% achieved on the day of the referendum.
We now have another eighteen months in which to repeat some concerted campaigning which will serve to focus minds on the issue of independence and hopefully to repeat the substantial gains in independence support seen in 2013-14, only crucially this time we are starting from a much higher baseline. Even if Wednesday’s poll was an outlier, we now have substantial polling evidence to demonstrate that support for independence is favoured by at least half, and quite possibly more, of the population of Scotland. That is an exceptionally strong position from which to launch a campaign, particularly since the Conservatives have spent the last few years methodically destroying many of the arguments deployed by the Better Together campaign in 2014.
A lot can happen in eighteen months. Nothing should be taken for granted, and it is likely to prove difficult to increase support for independence by the approximate 15% which it increased between 2012/13 and the September 2014 vote. Most people in Scotland have now got at least a passing familiarity with independence arguments, which wasn’t the case before the 2014 vote. The concept of Scottish independence is no longer the novelty that it once was. This is of course potentially an advantage as much as a possible weakness as it means that whether you support it or oppose it, the idea of Scottish independence now has to be taken seriously, which means that more people are likely to give it serious thought and consideration. Only that minority of Scottish opinion which is wedded to the Conservative party will now dismiss it out of hand.
However since the notion of Scottish independence is now very much a mainstream idea in Scottish politics, that means it is likely that those of us campaigning for a yes vote are going to encounter more people who have already made up their minds one way or the other. Yet if we can achieve even one half of the persuasive success achieved between 2012/13 and the first independence referendum, that means that we could potentially win the next referendum with a vote in the high 50s percentile, which the BBC would probably call an indecisive result on the narrowest of margins. It is certainly possible that we could do even better.
One of the most interesting features of opinion polling about Scottish independence is that the percentage which says that they believe independence is going to happen eventually is consistently higher than the percentage which says that they themselves support independence. This can only mean that there is a small but significant body of those who are currently opposed to independence who believe that theirs will go down in history as the losing side. This points to considerable fear and uncertainty on a British nationalist side with low morale and a deep seated lack of conviction in the ability of the British state defeat Scottish independence.
While we must never underestimate the willingness of those who fear their backs are against the wall to fight dirty, the simple fact is that in order to see off Scottish independence as a political force, British nationalists in Scotland must break out of their red white and blue Brexit admiration society, the quandary that the Tories face is that the more they resort to an anti-democratic denial of the mandate for a referendum which the Scottish electorate gave Holyrood in May, the harder it becomes for them to win the support of those in Scotland who do not prioritise a British identity above all other considerations and who are not opposed to Scottish independence under all and any circumstances.
For our part, as independence supporters we need to focus on the prize, and put all our efforts into highlighting the irredeemable dysfunction and corruption of Westminster and reaching out to those who have yet to be persuaded of the case for independence. That is exactly what this blog will be doing over the coming months. A Yes vote of approaching 60% is within our grasp. We just need the determination and drive to reach for it.
Just to let you know, I am currently going through a phase of what my physiotherapist calls neurological hypersensitivity. Nerves and sensation are starting to reawaken on the left side of my body, however because my brain has had no input from the left for many months and because the relevant parts of the brain suffered damage in the stroke, the brain is interpreting these signals as pain. It’s uncomfortable and exhausting but it is a sign of progress and therefore is good news. Hopefully my brain will relearn what these signals really mean and the pain will diminish and I will have meaningful sensation. However in the meantime it’s causing a lot of fatigue and exhaustion as well as pain, so I will be blogging less frequently until symptoms settle down.
My Gaelic maps of Scotland are still available, a perfect gift for any Gaelic learner or just for anyone who likes maps. The maps cost £15 each plus £7 P&P within the UK. You can order by sending a PayPal payment of £22 to firstname.lastname@example.org (Please remember to include the postal address where you want the map sent to).
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