Brexit and Scottish Independence: Recent Polls and Elections

The issue of whether Scots would like to remain in the European Union, or remain in the United Kingdom, or be independent is quite complicated as these issues are not separate issues but are inextricably intertwined.

62% of Scots voted to remain in the European Union during the Brexit vote.  This would seemingly answer the question of whether Scots want to stay in EU.  However, the Financial Times reported on July 29, 2016, that a YouGov poll found that only 47% of Scots would back independence in order to remain in the EU.  This poll followed several other polls taken just after the Brexit vote which had found that there was a surging majority of Scots who wanted independence in order to stay in the EU.  This poll found the independence vote as being only slightly higher than the independence vote of 45% in the referendum.

Even in the wake of this YouGov Poll, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has called a second referendum regarding independence as being “highly likely”.

“In the short term at least, the data suggests the vote to leave the EU has not boosted the cause of Scottish independence,” said Joe Twyman, YouGov’s Head of Political Social Research. But he also said that “Once precise details of the Brexit and hammered out it could change the whole context of the independence debate — in either direction.”

Significantly, this poll was taken just after oil prices collapsed.  Scotland has long argued that the division of the oil revenues with the rest of the UK is unfair to Scotland.  Scotland receives about 19% of the oil revenues whereas about 75% of the oil rigs lie off the coast of Scotland.  In the past, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has said that the division should be 80% to Scotland and 20% to the rest of the UK.  With prices down so much, this issue does not seem to carry the weight it once did.

Joe Twyman, summed the matter up as follows: “Inevitably, some will suggest that the high-water mark of Scottish independence has now passed, especially as it was thought that leaving the EU might persuade ‘No’ voters to change their minds and vote against the Union.”

The issue is further complicated by what type of Brexit the UK may pursue. This issue has been cast as a soft versus a hard Brexit. Hard Brexit is viewed as a repudiation of EU policies regarding open borders and free immigration.

While the UK Government under Theresa May has apparently been pursuing what may be termed a ‘Hard Brexit” approach, a recent election was seen as been a referendum on the issue of whether the UK should pursue a hard or a soft approach. Sarah Olney, a Liberal Democrat, won over the Tory, Zac Goldsmith. Ms. Olney described her election as sending a shockwave through the Conservative Government. “Our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit; we do not want to be pulled out of the single market and we will not let intolerance, division, and fear win.” She continued, “Today we have said, No. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant Britain we believe in.”
I shall keep you apprized as developments occur regarding this important topic.


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