Is there survey evidence of a surge in Scottish national identity?

Someone emailed the other day to ask if I’d write a blogpost about the New Statesman’s report on survey evidence apparently showing a surge in Scottish national identity, and a decline in British national identity in Scotland.  I actually saw the article when it was published and I was going to comment on it, but the trouble was that I couldn’t entirely make sense of what I was looking at.  We’re very used to seeing the annual figures on national identity from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, but the numbers in the New Statesman piece were apparently from the British Social Attitudes Survey and were being compared with data from ten years ago, rather than last year.  So I’m not entirely sure how to fit them into the wider jigsaw.  (Although it’s rather typical that a London-based publication is only viewing Scotland through the lens of a Britain-wide survey.)

What I can say with confidence, though, is that the commentary in the New Statesman piece was very misleading.  It suggested that the independence referendum produced a flourishing in Scottish national identity at the expense of Britishness, but we already know from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey results from the time of the long indyref campaign that, if anything, the opposite is true.  There was a sudden change between the 2011 and 2012 surveys, with the percentage of respondents saying they were “equally Scottish and British” jumping from 23% to 30%, and with corresponding reductions in the percentage of respondents saying they were “Scottish not British” or “more Scottish than British”.  In fact “equally Scottish and British” became the joint most popular option at that point, after years of “more Scottish than British” being on top.  Nor was this a blip – by referendum year in 2014, “equally Scottish than British” had jumped even further to 32% and had moved into the outright lead.
I think this phenomenon is pretty easy to explain – many people who had previously identified as “more Scottish than British” knew they were going to vote No in the referendum, and began to feel that “equally Scottish and British” was a better way of reconciling their national identity with their indyref allegiance.  A cynic might argue that any recovery in Scottish identity since then could therefore indicate that the prospect of a new referendum feels much more distant to potential No voters, but in fact that’s pretty unlikely given the way that unionist parties have obsessively talked up the “threat” of Indyref 2. 
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I ran an informal Twitter poll yesterday, and these are the results after a whopping 1375 people voted…
Do you believe the SNP’s promise of a 2023 independence referendum will be kept?

Yes 42.8%
No 57.2%
Of course the sample isn’t representative of anything apart from people who follow me on Twitter, or in some cases of people who follow my followers.  So there’ll be a disproportionate number of Alba members and supporters in there, but what I find more interesting anyway is the substantial minority of people who voted “yes”.  Someone actually left a comment to say in all apparent seriousness that he had “never been as sure of anything in his life” than of a 2023 indyref.  I hope the SNP leadership are aware of how sky-high expectations are among their own supporters.  These are not people who “play the game” and pay heed to the nods and winks given to journalists that the 2023 promise isn’t really intended to be taken seriously.  They simply expect the promise to be kept, and heaven only knows how they’ll react if in a year’s time they realise they’ve been led up the garden path.

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