Recently several polling companies have manipulated figures at the request of unionist newspapers commissioning them and/or released false data showing support for Scottish independence has fallen below 50%. In those two cases it didn’t, but those polls were used to try to manage support for independence in a downwards direction, to try to make people feel that independence was not inevitable.
As the largest and most active independence campaigning organisation, Believe in Scotland and our members wanted a poll on both independence and on Holyrood voting intentions that could be trusted.
As a result we commissioned Panelbase, a major polling company based in England and a member of the British polling council; it is also a company we have regularly commissioned to carry out polls for us. The methodology used is standard and directly comparable to past polls by Panelbase for all clients. Furthermore, to demonstrate the absolute integrity of our Holyrood seat projections we engaged the nation’s leading pollster, Sir John Curtice of Strathclyde University, to calculate our seat projections which we have published here.
Our poll found headline support for Scottish independence at 51% and support for the Union at 49%, which represents no change from Panelbase’s last poll.
The survey of 1,002 Scottish residents over the age of 16 between 9th to 12th April (including undecided voters) found support for independence leading by 48% to 46%, with 6% defining themselves as Don’t Knows.
So what’s the story?
That a poll published by an organisation the Yes community can trust confirms that independence has a 2% lead is good news but it also shows that there is a great deal more work to be done for the Yes side. This is a realistic snapshot of where we are and to assume that independence is a foregone conclusion would be a tactical error.
However, assuming that there is a Yes majority in Holyrood after May’s Scottish elections, there will be a new independence referendum within the next few years. That will most likely take place in May 2022 or September/October 2022 and the Yes side will start the next campaign with majority support for independence, which is some 25% higher than at the start of the 2014 campaign.
Males and females polled matched the overall results 51% to 49%. However, the really striking data from the survey is the age group breakdown; respondents between the ages of 16 and 35 recorded a massive Yes lead of 72% to 28%. Females within that age group were 77% in favour of independence.
Respondents aged 35 to 54 returned a 50/50 draw with males at 53% Yes and females at 46% Yes. As always, the older group of respondents aged 55+ was against independence and came in at 38% Yes to 62% No.
The age demographics point to it simply being a matter of time before Scotland becomes independent. If young voters were as likely to vote as older ones Yes would win by a large margin already, so if the Yes campaign in the next independence referendum can engage young voters and motivate them to vote then a Yes result is inevitable.
Likewise, if the next Scottish Government was to make a commitment to increase pensions significantly in an independent Scotland then the resistance to independence within the older age group crumbles (yes, we polled that too and will release those figures later in the week).
The UK Government currently pays the worst pension in the developed world, as a percentage of final earnings. So we are not talking about a bribe to older voters but an investment in their wellbeing that every other developed nation in the world has been able to afford.
However, for a rise in pensions to be believed by older voters, the Scottish Government would have to abandon its outdated plans for managing the economy of an independent Scotland (the Sustainable Growth Commission). It would then need to commit to a Wellbeing based approach to build-back-better and put economic resilience, small company innovation, the environment, health and wellbeing at the heart of its economic plans for independence.
If the next Scottish Government and its allies after the Scottish Elections commit to that progressive and forward-thinking approach then a Yes vote of 60% becomes possible. If not, then it will be touch and go which side wins the next referendum.