As polling day approaches in next year’s independence referendum, which the SNP-Green majority government have guaranteed us will be held on schedule, there’s bound to be an increasing fascination with opinion poll results. It’s therefore noteworthy that we now have the first #Referendum2023 poll to be conducted since the local elections.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov / The Times)
Yes 45% (-2)
No 55% (+2)
The last batch of polls prior to the local elections were actually pretty encouraging for the pro-independence side, with Yes percentage shares in the high 40s. So on the face of it these latest numbers look slightly disappointing, but a few important points need to be remembered. Firstly, YouGov tend to be on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, and it’s therefore possible/likely that other firms would show better results for Yes. Secondly, any individual poll that bucks a clear recent trend needs to be treated with caution until its findings are corroborated by one or two more polls. It’s entirely possible that the slight slippage for Yes is an illusion caused by the poll’s standard margin of error, and indeed if you look at the numbers before Don’t Knows are stripped out, the Yes drop is a statistically insignificant one percentage point. And lastly, 45% is a superb platform with which to start any referendum campaign, and far better than the starting-point for Yes in the run-up to the 2014 vote. The poll is therefore total vindication for the Scottish Government’s decision to pass the point of no return by committing itself beyond all shadow of doubt to a referendum within the next nineteen months.
It goes without saying that the commentary in The Times claiming that Nicola Sturgeon has failed to increase the Yes vote in her seven years as First Minister is highly misleading, because it takes a single poll out of context. You really need to look at an average of recent polls, which would suggest that the Yes vote remains significantly higher than the 45% recorded in September 2014.