Being an advocate for Scotland remaining in the UK leading up to the 2014 referendum, and in the five years that have passed since, is not always easy. This is despite there being consistent evidence that I am representing the majority of people in Scotland; a huge 59% would vote to remain in the UK according to today’s new poll carried about by Survation for Scotland in Union.
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Our polling also found that:
· Only 27% of people support Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a second referendum within 18 months.
· More than half of voters think a second referendum would make Scottish society more divided.
· 36% of 2014 ‘Yes’ voters now want to remain in the UK.
· 60% of voters in Glasgow now support remaining in the UK.
Over the past five years, much has changed, with the political tide turning even before the independence referendum. We are seeing nationalist politics on the rise across Europe and beyond, as people seek change at any cost in a bid to escape the lives that they have become unsatisfied with, largely due to the impact that the economy is having on their quality of life.
Brexit has infiltrated every area of public discourse, including Scotland’s future in the UK. The nationalist rhetoric of Scots choosing to support independence in order to escape the chaos we are seeing at Westminster, and in order to stay in the EU, has not come to pass. In fact, more than half a million ‘Yes’ voters have changed their mind and now wish to remain in the UK. And why? The top three reasons given were to protect public services, the UK leaving the EU and…Nicola Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister.
It is not a surprise that Brexit is on the list. We know that the impact of Scotland leaving the UK would far outweigh the damage that even Brexit could do, with one report showing that it would be eight times as costly as the worst-case scenario Brexit.
What has not changed is the impact that leaving the UK would have on Scotland. The Scottish Government’s own figures (GERS), published in August show Scotland having a huge deficit of 7%, dwarfing the UK’s deficit of 1.1%. This would make it extremely difficult for a separate Scotland to join the EU. We are currently protected from the impact of this deficit by the pooling and sharing of resources throughout our United Kingdom. The figures also show that each person in Scotland benefitted from nearly £2000 in additional public spending because we are part of the UK.
The majority of young people (under-25s) are in support of Scotland staying in the UK. They know that this gives them the best chance of future opportunities. They know that building borders in a world that is rapidly becoming interconnected is the last thing we need, when we need to work together now more than ever before to tackle the large global threats we are facing, none more so than climate change.
Barely a quarter of people support the First Minister’s plan for a second referendum within 18 months, and over half of people think another referendum would make Scottish society more divided at a time when the country is already deeply divided.
The results in this poll show that if another referendum took place, it is likely that Scotland would vote to remain in the UK once again. But going through another referendum in itself would cause social division and economic hardship.
I am from a largely Catholic, Lanarkshire village, one of the places where the SNP’s strategy was to tap into age-old existing divisions and use them to their advantage, with the enticing message that creating change was simple, we just had to break away from England.
So, when so many of the people I live alongside, the people from whom I have come, have become supporters of independence, I have often thought to myself that I would have a much easier life if I was not an outspoken critic of independence.
I do it because it is the right thing to do. Because it goes against every fibre in my being to build borders in a world that is rapidly becoming more interconnected, when we need to work together now more than ever before to tackle the large global threats we are facing, none more so than climate change. Because I know that the poorest in our society would be the hardest hit in the economic and social aftermath of us leaving the UK.
We are stronger together as part of the UK. It’s time to put the independence referendum divisions behind us and work towards a better future for Scotland as part of the UK, protecting public services and growing our economy, and building on our shared history and culture.