There has been huge volatility in Scotland’s opinion polls this year – but not when it comes to views on leaving the UK.
Of nearly 50 polls published over the past 12 months, 85 per cent found that most Scots wanted to remain part of the UK.
That bucked the trend seen in the final few months of 2022 when the campaign for separation enjoyed a slim lead in most polls.
It means that the final poll of 2023 – at the time of writing – puts support for leaving the UK at 46 per cent (with undecided voters included), or just one point higher than on referendum day itself.
All that relentless negative campaigning by the SNP, and the millions of pounds of public cash spent on trying to persuade Scots to back separation – and the nationalists have made no progress.
Hardcore anti-UK campaigners have long held out the hope that demographics would work in their favour as elderly Scots pass away and younger Scots – supposedly keener on breaking up the UK – increase in number. Sickeningly, some even say this out loud.
But the data shows that this entire premise is flawed. What is often overlooked is how many people who voted ‘yes’ in 2014 would now choose to remain part of the UK.
When we asked voters in a poll earlier this year, 27 per cent of ‘yes’ supporters from indyref2 said they would now vote ‘remain part of the UK’, while 12 per cent had gone the other way.
How the question is asked matters (more on this later), but the SNP’s hopes of one-way traffic have hit a roadblock.
That’s an inconvenient truth for the nationalists.
Indyref2? No thanks
There is also an obvious flaw in opinion polls which ask how people would vote in a referendum ‘tomorrow’: there isn’t going to be a referendum tomorrow.
The Supreme Court has confirmed that Holyrood can’t simply legislate for another referendum as the constitution is reserved.
But more importantly, what kind of politician would even consider pushing for another contest when our NHS is dire straits and millions of Scots are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis?
Certainly not any responsible politician.
When you ask voters whether they want a second referendum any time soon, the answer is clear: no thanks.
A poll by Opinium for the Tony Blair Institute in September found that only 19 per cent believed there should be a referendum “as soon as possible”. Nearly a third (31 per cent) said there should be one “if and when it appears likely that a majority of people would vote for independence” and 39 per cent said there should not be a referendum.
Not so long ago, those close to Nicola Sturgeon talked of only pushing for another contest when 60 per cent of the public consistently backed separation – a threshold which has never been reached.
The question matters
Ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the Electoral Commission concluded that yes/no questions should not be considered neutral as only one outcome is reflected in the question.
Should there ever be a second independence referendum, the wording used in 2014 will not be repeated.
That’s why we have consistently asked a fairer question which puts forward both outcomes.
In January, we asked how people would vote if there was a referendum with the question 'should Scotland remain a part of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?’
Excluding ‘don’t knows’, 59 per cent said they would vote to remain part of the UK.
Recently, our friends at These Islands found that asking people if they support separation by using the traditional yes/no question adds “at least five and perhaps as many as seven percentage points to observed support for independence (compared to asking a more neutral remain/leave question)”.
We must continue to campaign
However, the encouraging polling over the past year doesn’t mean that those of us who want to remain part of the UK – the majority of people in our country – can afford to be complacent.
SNP politicians and their Green allies will never stop trying to divide us while they remain in power, and a sizeable minority of our fellow Scots support the ‘leave’ movement.
The nationalists will be relentless in trying to persuade more voters to change their mind and gamble on separation.
That’s why Scotland in Union exists – to continue making the positive case for Scotland’s future in the UK.
And we can only do this with your help.
By donating to and volunteering for our campaign, we can continue to expose the SNP's abject failure in government, produce more high-quality materials to promote Scotland's future in the UK, and take the fight to the nationalists across Scotland.
The tide is turning
While polls on separation have remained broadly consistent throughout the year, the same can’t be said when it comes to political party voting intention.
There has been a huge shift which has seen the SNP slowly lose its commanding lead, which has now been completely eroded.
That makes the forthcoming UK General Election – which could be as early as this May – ultra competitive.
The tide is turning.
We can evict SNP MPs from their seats in the General Election, but there is much work to be done to ensure this happens in as many constituencies as possible.
The SNP has an ever-changing convoluted position that the election is some kind of ‘de facto’ referendum – even though there is no such thing.
This is a dangerous game to play, attempting to ignore the myriad of different reasons why people vote the way they do in an election.
We need your continued support to send a clear message to the SNP at the ballot box that we reject its divisive politics.
Look out for more information from the Scotland in Union team in the run-up to the contest in the months ahead.
A brighter future
It would be easy to sit back and watch the SNP slide in the polls and take comfort from the consistent opposition to separation.
But the nationalists’ obsession with the constitution isn’t just a frustration – it’s having devastating consequences.
As we come to the end of the year, the latest ‘PISA’ international education rankings have been released… which found a long-term decline in Scotland's performance in reading, maths and science, with a fall that is larger than in England, the UK as a whole, and the OECD average.
Nicola Sturgeon told us to judge her government on its record in education, but after 16 years of the SNP in charge, our children’s opportunities in life have been reduced.
In other public services, our NHS is in disarray with record waiting times, councils have been cut to the bone, and under-resourced police officers have been forced to ignore some crimes.
This is why removing nationalists from office, with their narrow obsessions, really matters.
Rather than their negative vision for Scotland, we have a bright future ahead of us as part of the UK where we can focus on delivering economic growth for our nation, creating more opportunities for our businesses, providing job security for the people of Scotland, keeping the pound, avoiding a border with our friends and families, protecting our welfare state, and investing more in our hospitals and schools.
It’s time for the people’s priorities, not the SNP’s.