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A poll conducted by Panelbase for Believe in Scotland of over 2,000 Scottish residents, aged 16+ conducted has shown that 56% of Scottish voters would support Scottish independence if the Scottish Government put a Wellbeing Economic Approach at the heart of its economic plans for an independent Scotland. A plan that recognises that quality of life, equality, fairness, sustainability, happiness, and health are all outcomes that should be given equal weight as it does to traditional measures such as GDP.
The same poll asked the standard Yes/No question on independence, Yes support came in at 48%. This means that a Wellbeing Economic Approach increases independence support to 56% an 8% increase. You can learn more about the Wellbeing economics approach here. This poll demonstrates that there is a route to independence if the Scottish Government is willing to adopt the Wellbeing Economic Approach and drop its outdated Sustainable Growth Commission.
The impact of a Wellbeing Pension on independence support.
Believe in Scotland has also been campaigning for a Wellbeing Pension. The UK basic state pension is the second worst in the developed world and is a direct cause of pensioner poverty. The Wellbeing Pension has been calculated by Scotianomics, the research arm of Business for Scotland, as the minimum amount required by pensioners to live with basic dignity. That amount is £225.00 per week.
When asked “If the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Economic approach included a commitment to increasing the basic state pension from £141.85 to a Wellbeing Pension of £225.00 per week in an independent Scotland - how would you vote in a Scottish independence independence referendum?” Support for independence skyrockets to 60%. That is a full 12% increase just by clarifying the message and doing the right thing.
The Scottish Independence Congress Supports Wellbeing
When a similar question was asked of delegates at the recent Scottish Independence Congress hosted by Believe in Scotland and attended by 241 delegates selected from 126 local Yes Groups - 97% of delegates agreed that a core focus of Scotland’s campaign to become independent should centre around introducing and pursuing a Wellbeing Economic Approach.
97% also supported the adoption of a Wellbeing Pension as a core manifesto commitment of pro-Yes parties. The message from the Yes movement is clear - they want Scotland to be a country which places the welfare and happiness of its citizens on par with economic prosperity.
Sustainable Growth Commission published in 2017 is now outdated and irrelevant to the new reality. It has been overtaken by events such as the economic damage done by Brexit, the health crises, the cost of living crises and disastrous economic management from the UK Government. There is no place for outdated conservatism in the economic plan for an independent Scotland. The next First Minister of Scotland must continue and in fact, accelerate, the Scottish Governments adoption the Wellbeing Economic Approach in their campaign for independence.
How the Wellbeing Economic Approach changes minds on independence
It is clear that a focus on wellbeing economics increases support for independence, but where is that increase felt? In short, the difference is felt across almost every age group, sex and party affiliation. The commitment to a wellbeing economic approach by the government of a newly independent Scotland increases the support for independence across the board. The most stark demographic jump is among females aged 18-34 where support for independence increases 11% to 75-25 in favour.
The next most interesting change comes from those who intend to vote Labour in the next Westminster election. When asked about their support for independence with the wellbeing commitment, Labour voter support jumps by 11% and LibDem support for independence increases by 12%.
Across all regions of Scotland there are also significant increases in support for Yes. The largest increases are felt in the West and South of Scotland, where opposition to independence is traditionally strongest. In these areas a Wellbeing Economic Approach increases support for independence by 9% and 8% respectively, taking both areas above majority support for independence.
How the addition of the Wellbeing Pension changes minds on independence
Committing to a Wellbeing Pension as part of the Wellbeing Economic Approach increases support for independence even more strongly across the board. The increases across demographics are felt more strongly among females, with the most consequential increase being Females 55+. This demographic was most opposed to independence in 2014, due to fears over pensions, this result shows there is a path to winning them to the cause of independence.
Looking at the results across party lines we can see support for independence once again increases significantly for Labour and LibDem voters. The key here is that the adoption of the Wellbeing Economic Approach with the Wellbeing Pension of £225.00 per week wins over large swathes of Labour voters, these voters are the key to Scotland winning its independence as they are most likely soft No voters or undecideds who voted to remain in the EU and are disheartened by the path the UK is on, if we can show them that an independent Scotland can offer a brighter future, we can win them over.
These results show that a key way to increase support for independence is to offer a vision of a fairer, more equal and happier nation that prioritises more than just economic growth but also the happiness for its citizens.
Believe in Scotland and its parent organisation Business for Scotland have, since 2011, championed the introduction of wellbeing economics as the dominant economic model of an independent Scotland. The current and past failures of the UK Government highlight, even more starkly, that now is the time to move to this model. The old economic and political dogmas of the left and right are dead, they offer us no solutions to the current state of the UK. The world economy has teetered on the brink of collapse twice in just over a decade, with the UK economy never fully recovering from the first. We need new answers and wellbeing economics provides them.
Wellbeing economics provides answers to the big questions, such as how do we combat climate change, reduce inequality, improve health outcomes and quality of life? The solution is simple: we must give these outcomes the equal weight we currently give to traditional economic indicators such as GDP growth or trade statistics, incorporating them into official government publications and policies. Scotland’s aim should be to become a world leader in all the areas listed above by building a strong society and a strong economy - as one cannot exist without the other.
Through independence, Scotland can make strides to become a world leader in the other wellbeing indicators and the results of this poll shows that the Scottish people want that future. One where their quality of life and happiness is prioritised as much as economic growth.
A Panelbase poll conducted on behalf of Believe in Scotland has found 48% of respondents in support of Yes, the same as polls in October 2022, despite alleged ‘setbacks’ for the independence campaign. These results show that with a concentrated effort by the independence movement and the Scottish Government to put the focus back on independence, the results can be even higher and put us in a good position to hold a referendum campaign.
This poll was conducted by PanelBase, surveying more than 2,000 respondents across Scotland weighted for age, social class etc. It finds that, when those who responded ‘Don’t Know’ are removed, 48% are in support of independence, compared to 52% who are opposed. This is a 4% decrease from a previous PanelBase poll conducted for The Times in December 2022 but is identical to another poll conducted in October 2022. Despite reported ‘setbacks’ in other polls, overall support for independence remains strong. The poll also measures how individuals would vote in a UK General and Scottish Parliamentary Election, which is particularly important given the Scottish Government’s proposal to run the next General Election as a de facto independence referendum. When these votes are translated into seats, we can see that the SNP would maintain a majority of seats both in Westminster and Holyrood. However, as things stand they do not have a majority of votes, even when this is combined with support from other pro-indy parties like the Scottish Greens and Alba. This shows that the use of such a strategy would have to be carefully considered in order to achieve a Yes vote that eventually grants us independence.
While these results do not yet display an overall majority for Yes, voters have also shown they believe that Scottish independence is not only likely but inevitable. 65% of those polled believe that Scotland will become independent in the future, with over 50% believing that it will become independent in the next 10 years. This reinforces what Believe in Scotland has been saying for years- independence is normal and it is a likely prospect in the minds of many people across Scotland.
When the results are considered in detail, we can also see some variations in support with different demographic groups. Young people aged 16-34 years old consistently support independence at a higher rate (67%) compared to those who are older, particularly in the 55+ age group (35%). Interestingly, more women aged 35-54 support independence at 57% compared to men at the same age at 46%. Another significant group that supports independence at a higher than average rate is 2016 Remain voters (55%), as well as people who did not vote in that referendum (68%). People can see that Brexit continues to be an unmitigated disaster and are reacting accordingly. Conversely, 2016 Leave voters are one of the largest groups opposing independence at 71%. Campaigning to appease Leave voters to win a campaign like the rest of the UK political parties will not work. The independence campaign must promise closer ties with the EU or at least to address Remain and those who did not vote fears.
The poll does not paint a good picture of public opinion on the Westminster government. Over 90% of those polled argue that UK Government policy was a factor in causing the current cost of living crisis. The Scottish public can see the impact of Westminster mismanagement in the form of increased heating bills, the cost of essentials and potentially not being able to afford food. They deserve better than what they have been given.
These results are critical following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland last week. The independence movement is currently at an impasse in terms of how to approach the independence vote following the UK Government’s blocking of a Section 30 request for a second independence referendum in October 2023. The 2014 independence referendum campaign began with support for independence in the mid-30s, rising to 45% in the actual result. With a concentrated campaigning effort, which puts the focus back on winning independence, the EU and the Wellbeing Economic Approach, we are almost guaranteed to push support even higher than where it is now. Despite Westminster and the UK media establishment’s best attempts to divide and undermine us, we can further consolidate support.
Fortunately, we at Believe in Scotland believe we have the solution. Believe in Scotland, along with its parent organisation Business for Scotland, have been championing the adoption of the Wellbeing Economic approach in an independent Scotland, with the idea eventually being endorsed by the Scottish Government. This approach puts social development on equal footing with economic development, believing that you cannot have one without the other. Our poll found that support for independence with the adoption of a Wellbeing approach increases to 55% and this approach with the inclusion of an increase in the current state pension to at least £225 a month, support increases to a supermajority of 60%. These results are telling- we can achieve independence if we put wellbeing at the heart of our campaign.
70% of Yes Group organisers say Westminster Election as defacto referendum is answer to Westminster's undemocratic indy stance
On Saturday 18th February, 241 voting delegates from 126 local and national Yes groups joined the Scottish Independence Congress hosted by Believe in Scotland. This was the biggest ever meeting of Yes Group organisers. Delegates met to discuss and agree on the next steps for the Yes movement and what the strategy for achieving independence should be.
In quite a coup for Believe in Scotland the Congress delegates heard from representatives from each of the three main pro-Yes parties. Michael Russell from the SNP, Ross Greer from the Greens and Kenny MacAskill from Alba were all interviewed by Judith Duffy the Chief Political Reporter of the National on their suggested way forward for achieving independence.
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp presented the results of a large scale (2,006 respondents) poll conducted in the previous week by Panelbase for Believe in Scotland and discussed how different policies such as Wellbeing Economics, rejoining the EU and paying a Wellbeing Pension impacted on support for independence. Polling details and Wellbeing Economics will be covered in a separate article.
Richard Walker the former Sunday Herald editor and founding editor of The National then hosted a lively discussion on the options with panelists Lesley Riddoch, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp and Kelly Given.
Armed with hours of data and opinion from all sides of the debate, delegates then voted on a series of measures. These have been laid out below:
What is the most practical democratic route to gaining Scotland’s independence?
All speakers and panelists were clear that the Scottish Government has multiple mandates for a second independence referendum and that is the gold standard way to demonstrate the will of the Scottish people and achieve Scotland's independence. That route being undemocratically blocked by Westminster is an affront to democracy and is driven by the fact that Westminster knows it will lose the next referendum.
Given therefore that the choices of a path forward (assuming doing nothing is not an option) lies either through a Westminster or Holyrood defacto referendum - 70% of delegates supported using the next Westminster election as a defacto independence referendum, while just under 10% wanted to see a Holyrood election used, and a further 10% wished to see the law changed to force an early Holyrood election to be used as a defacto or a UK General Election used to secure a Section 30 referendum.
Independence support will only rise if we campaign and focus the nations thinking on the benefits of independence versus the irreversible decline of Brexit Britain. When during that campaign independence support reaches the high 50s we expect Westminster will offer a Section 30 referendum - if not then the next UK General election becomes a defacto referendum.
The Yes movement has been clear. The next Westminster election should be used by the pro-Yes parties as a defacto referendum on whether or not Scotland should be an independent nation. It is therefore the belief of the Congress that this should be adopted by the parties and that the date should be announced in order to energise the movement before a new SNP leader takes the reins.
Have the pro-Yes political parties specifically the SNP done enough to promote and explain the benefits of independence?
When asked, 91% of delegates thought that the pro-Yes parties had not done enough to promote and explain the benefits of independence to the Scottish people. A clear message from the Yes movement that there is significant work on the part of the parties to get our message out there to the undecideds. As the leadership race of the SNP kicks off, this is a clear sign that the next leader must refocus the party’s priorities back onto independence, an issue it seems many within the movement think the parties have been neglecting.
Should an independent Scotland seek to rejoin the EU or the EFTA?
Scotland is an inherently pro-EU nation. Scotland voted 62% to remain in 2016 and in recent polling for Believe in Scotland, Panelbase found that 68% want an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU. 80% of delegates at the Scottish Independence Congress voted in favour of an independent Scotland rejoining the EU, with another 15% voted that we should rejoin the European Free Trade Association. Scotland is an outward looking nation, we must leave behind Brexit Britain and reconnect with our European partners, that is the message of this Congress.
Getting the Policies Right
87% of delegates would like to see the Scottish Government restart the publication of its policy papers on independence which ceased after the supreme court ruling. These papers gave the Yes movement critical ammunition in winning over undecideds and those whose “hearts said yes but their heads said no”. It is paramount for the movement going forward that the Scottish Government make its official stance clear on what policies it will pursue in the wake of independence.
The Role of Believe in Scotland
87% of delegates also agreed that an organised grassroots, non party political campaign such as Believe in Scotland was vital to increasing support for and ultimately winning independence. 85% would also like to see pro-Yes political parties kick their membership into campaign mode and join Believe in Scotland and our 136 affiliated Yes Campaign Groups to campaign and raise the Yes support - making any plebiscite on independence a sure win.
The Scottish Independence Congress succeeded in its plans to bring together the organisers of the Yes movement and chart the course towards independence. The delegates to this Congress have stated clearly that in the absence of an agreed referendum that the next Westminster General Election be a defacto referendum on Scottish independence. In addition to this, we ask that the political parties reaffirm their commitment to ensuring that an independent Scotland will begin the process of rejoining the EU from day one.
The SNP is Scotland dominant political party and the Scottish Independence Congress hoped that a new leader could refocus the SNP on Independence, raise their game and refresh the message whilst working more closely with Believe in Scotland to and our affiliated groups to launch a proper and sustained campaign that will lead to Scotland independence and the opportunity to build a better country that only independence can bring.
Through these commitments and through these policies we can ensure that pro-independence support in Scotland will reach new highs and that more and more people will be persuaded to Believe in Scotland.
BREAKING: A poll released this morning shows support for Scottish independence has soared to 56% in the wake of the UK Supreme Court’s ruling against a second independence referendum. These results demonstrate that the writing is on the wall for Unionism as a political project- the people of Scotland are both ready and willing to support independence.
The Scottish Political Monitor poll, conducted by Ipsos Mori for STV found that support for independence had risen by 6% between May and November. The results account for those who are likely to vote and when they are examined in detail, the majority for Yes becomes even clearer. Including those who voted ‘Don’t Know’ in answer to whether they would support independence, Yes retains a majority at 53%, with No at 42%.
The poll also surveyed voting intentions at Westminster. If a General Election were called tomorrow, 51% of respondents would vote for the SNP, maintaining their majority share of MPs in Scotland. When these results are run through the Electoral Calculus model, 58 of 59 potential seats in Scotland would be won by the SNP, a larger proportion than even the party’s landslide victory in Scotland at the 2015 General Election. This is also remarkable stability for the SNP, who have been the main party of government in Scotland since 2007 (15 years in total).
However, the Scottish Government has announced that they intend to run the next General Election as a de facto independence referendum, after plans for a 2023 referendum were undemocratically blocked by the UK Supreme Court. Once these conditions are factored in, support for the SNP rises further to 53%, with the Greens at 2% and Alba at 0.47% meaning a total pro-independence majority of 55.5%. Voters in Scotland are not just rejecting a Conservative government, they are rejecting rule by Westminster altogether.
Many people had denounced the strategy of a de facto referendum as risky, with Westminster leaders ridiculing the idea. This however does not seem to have dented support for independence in the slightest. In fact, the Supreme Court’s subversion of the people of Scotland’s democratic wishes appears to have instead galvanised support.
Above all else, these results confirm what the independence movement already knew. Westminster did not just block another referendum because they thought Scotland legally was not entitled to hold another one, they blocked it because they knew that they would lose. Ironically, their attempts to stop it means that now they almost certainly will.
Believe in Scotland supports 127 local Yes campaigns
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Frontpage headlines rarely cause laughter - unless on comics like the Broons. But listeners to the press review on BBS Radio Scotland’s Sunday Show last weekend may have chuckled as reviewers joked about the Sunday Times Scotland's latest anti-independence splash.
Separately, a law professor condemned the editorial team behind the weekend’s splash headlines as “deeply unserious people” “more interested in scandal-mongering than checking the accuracy of their stories”.
The story, which was later altered online, fell below the standards of a quality newspaper. On occasion, Times Scotland reads like an anti-independence propaganda sheet. It claims to reach 1.3 million Scots through its print and digital outlets, so this kind of bias is concerning. However, as support for independence rises, the paper may eventually have to change its stance. Proprietor Ruper Murdoch has stated publicly that Scottish independence “feels inevitable”.
“Straightforwardly false” headlines altered in the online edition
The front page banner headline on the print edition read: “SNP’s indyref spending may be unlawful”. Law lecturer Andrew Tickell told listeners to BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship "Sunday Show" that it was “straightforwardly false”. He said:
“This is the idea we should never have had the court case in the first place, that the SNP should have ignored its mandate and never have gone to the Supreme Court and asked the question. The headline is straightforwardly false. It is not unlawful for them to spend money on this, that is not how the Scotland Act works, and they would know that if they had asked any experts in law to resolve it as Aileen McHarg a professor at Durham University was pointing out on Twitter earlier today.”
Tickell, a lecturer in jurisprudence at Glasgow Caledonian University and a columnist in the National, added, sardonically:
“Their legal source for this story was Alex Cole-Hamiton, who doubtless has many merits but legal education is not particularly among them.”
“Deeply unserious people”
Professor of Public Law and Human Rights, Durham University, an expert in Scots & UK public law, Aileen McHarg condemned the idea that money spent clarifying a point of law could be retrospectively ruled unlawful if he case was lost, tweeting that It: “only requires a moment's thought to know that it's a ludicrous position to adopt.
“This is a cheap line advanced by people who obviously don't expect that they will actually be in a position where they would have to try to govern under these conditions any time soon. Deeply unserious politicians. And, I might add, a press more interested in scandal-mongering than checking the accuracy of their stories. Also deeply unserious people.”
Later, the online headline and story appeared to be changed to “Spending public money building case for independence ‘may be illegal’” and the story was dropped from the ‘Scotland’ section of the online edition.
Later in the week the Times carried the headline “Whitehall investigates independence planning by Scots civil service” saying that Sue Gray is to look into the role of civil servants in independence planning. Further down the article the story’s importance was diminished by the explanation that: “the talks…are not seen by Whitehall as a formal review that will lead to reports being published.”
The Times Scotland falls below standard of “newspaper of record”
The Times Scotland has always been an anti-independence paper - but presents itself as a source of reliable information. Recently, it appears to have sunk to the level of a downmarket tabloid. The headline last weekend was politically biased and not worthy of a newspaper that presents itself as a “newspaper of record”.
Times owner Rupert Murdoch predicted Scottish independence
For pragmatic reasons, the newspaper may eventually change its stance. Back in 2015, its owner Rupert Murdoch Scottish independence was inevitable. He tweeted:
“Scots may be crazy or not wanting self rule, but who can deny right of self determination? Feels inevitable over next few years.”
The newspaper reported that the first poll conducted in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling showed voters who favoured independence rose to 49 percent, an increase of five points compared with its survey in September 2021. Unionist support fell by two points to 45 percent.
The report concluded:
“The poll mostly made happy reading for the first minister, who has said that she will run the SNP campaign at the next general election as a single issue “de facto referendum”. If pro-independence parties win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, Sturgeon would assume this to be a mandate to begin negotiations with Downing Street about breaking up the UK.”
If the Times wants to continue to expand its readership it will need to reach out to younger audiences who primarily support independence.
Rising star in the field of Scottish and UK law Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, who is a fellow at Princeton in the US, argues the UK government risks undermining the rule of law and should change its stance to allow a referendum on Scottish independence.
In a hard-hitting legal analysis in the current issue of Prospect magazine, Douglas-Scott writes: "The UK government’s refusal to negotiate the independence issue with Scotland (including to permit a referendum) is unreasonable". She goes on to argue that:
“By ignoring the mandate of a lawful government, the UK government’s conduct in this context also undermines the rule of law."
Douglas-Scott, who is also a chair of law at Queen Mary University in London, argues that democracy is a key constitutional principle. She writes:
“The UK government has undermined democracy by ignoring the SNP’s 2021 manifesto pledge to hold another referendum, the endorsement of that pledge by the Scottish people, as well as the vote in the Scottish parliament in January 2020 for a further referendum.”
Supreme Court wrong to dismiss the issue of self-determination
Douglas-Scott argues that the Supreme Court under its current President Lord Reed defined devolution too narrowly:
“The Reed Court inclines toward legal formalism—in that it takes a narrow reading of the rule of law, adopts a close reading of legal texts and eschews arguments which stray into broader issues (such as those relevant to Scottish independence which rest on the principle of democracy).”
Many Scots would have been surprised to read that the Supreme Court summarily dismissed the argument that Scotland has the right to self-determination under international law. It said that this right only belongs to a colony, that Scotland is clearly not a colony and has no right to “secede”.
That begs the question - what is Scotland then? Is it merely a region of the UK or is it an ancient country which entered by agreement into a voluntary union?
Douglas-Scott argues it is the latter. She writes that “time and time again” the UK government has indicated that Scotland is a voluntary partner in the Union and has the right to consider its future.
“Through its own conduct over many years, the UK government has generated an expectation allowing for independence in principle. If the UK government refuses to countenance any new independence referendum, it will undermine the characterisation of the Union as voluntary.
“Its behaviour will also fly in the face of history, reducing Scotland to the status of a colony or a region with no history of independent statehood, while undermining any claims (made by UK government ministers) for the exceptional, “family” nature of Union.”
The Union is an ongoing agreement between two independent nations
Douglas-Scott argues that the Treaty of Union was not a one-off act but the basis for an ongoing agreement between two nations.
“Constitutional relations between Scotland and England have existed for over 300 years, since the UK was established by a Treaty of Union between two sovereign states, which was then ratified by two Acts of Union in the respective parliaments.
“But this relationship, and the issue of consent of both parties to it, is an ongoing one, not something over and done with thanks to an Act of Union three centuries old. Since 1707, Scotland has maintained its own distinct civic institutions, legal system, church and cultural heritage—all factors which point to the Union as a continuing agreement between two independent nations.”
Scotland must demonstrate support for independence
Douglas-Scott argues that:
“All these arguments must be supported by evidence that the Scottish people desire to exercise their right to self-determination and leave the Union.”
Douglas-Scott acknowledges that Scots were misled in the 2014 referendum:
“During that campaign, the pro-UK Better Together alliance conspicuously argued that Scotland could only retain its EU membership by remaining in the UK. This was not so; and since then, Brexit has taken place. In the 2016 EU referendum, Scotland voted 62 percent in favour of Remain. Although the Scottish government protested that it was undemocratic for Scotland to be taken out of the EU against its will, this argument was ignored by the UK government, and the whole UK exited the EU on 31st January 2020.”
A referendum would be the clearest way to demonstrate the desire for independence, but there is precedent for using a general election to give voters a voice on a single issue.
“The 1910 general election was fought on the issue of the Liberal government’s “People’s Budget”. The 1918 general election was fought by Sinn Féin on a manifesto commitment to establish an Irish Republic.”
According to Douglas-Scott’s analysis, the UK government is acting unreasonably when it refuses to negotiate over a referendum on Scottish independence. The Supreme Court took a narrow, procedural view in its judgment and refused to consider the broader issue of democratic principles.
Denying Scotland the right to self-determination and to consider its future “flies in the face of history”. The Union is an ongoing agreement between two independent nations.
Douglas-Scott still argues that the UK government should change its mind and allow a referendum on independence. But if the referendum route continues to be blocked, the Scottish government can legitimately use the next general election to test support for independence.
The UK Supreme Court has not settled the Scottish independence question by Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Prospect Magazine
The UK Supreme Court jugment that the Scottish government doesn’t have the legal right to hold a referendum is a huge milestone in the road to independence. It gives clarity over the nature of the Union; it ends this potentially time-consuming legal stage promptly and puts the question of Scotland’s independence firmly back into the political sphere. Here are ten takeaways from the judgment and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s statement in response.
1 Scotland’s independence movement respects the judgment of the Court
The judges were ruling on a matter of existing law. They don’t make the rules - they only apply them. Unlike the infamous attack by the Daily Mail on three judges involved in a High Court challenge to Brexit, when it ran their photos under the headline “Enemies of the People”, Scotland’s independence movement respects the rule of law. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said in her response to today’s judgment:
“We must be clear today that the Supreme Court does not make the law – it interprets and applies it. If the devolution settlement in the Scotland Act is inconsistent with any reasonable notion of Scottish democracy – as is now confirmed to be the case – that is the fault of Westminster lawmakers, not the justices of the Supreme Court.”
2 Only a lawful, democratic and peaceful approach will achieve successful independence
Nicola Sturgeon said that maintaining respect for the rule of law is vital for Scotland’s eventual success.
“That principle also reflects a practical reality – the route we take must be lawful and democratic for independence to be achieved.”
3 The Supreme Court did not rule on whether Scotland should become an independent country
The question the Supreme Court was asked - was: Does Holyrood have the power under the Scotland Act to hold a consultative referendum? The court decided unanimously that it does not without a section 30 order, like the one agreed for the 2014 referendum.
Presiding Judge Lord Reed said: “The Court is not asked, and cannot be asked, to express a view on the political question of whether Scotland should become an independent country. Its task is solely to decide on the provisions of the Scotland Act”.
4 The democratic mandate for independence is as strong as ever
In her response, Nicola Sturgeon said the judgment means that without a Section 30 order “the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for the referendum the people of Scotland have instructed it to deliver. That is a hard pill for any supporter of independence – and surely indeed for any supporter of democracy – to swallow.” But she went on to reiterate the democratic basis for the request.
“The Court was not asked to decide if there is a democratic mandate for a referendum. The mandate and parliamentary majority for a referendum is undeniable. Nor was the Court asked if Scotland should be independent. Only the Scottish people can be the judge of that.”
5 Any referendum on Scottish independence would carry great democratic weight
The Scottish government argued that a referendum that was simply about consulting the people of Scotland and was not binding on the UK government could be allowed. But the Supreme Court disagreed. It said that while it may not be legally binding, it would be of huge political significance and could weaken the UK Parliament’s sovereignty over Scotland.
Lord Reed said:
” A lawfully-held referendum would have important political consequences relating to the Union and the UK parliament. Its outcome would possess the authority - in a political constitution and culture founded upon democracy - of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate. It would either strengthen or weaken the democratic legitimacy of the Union and of the UK Parliament's sovereignty over Scotland.”
6 A majority vote for independence in a general election will carry the same democratic weight
That presumably will also apply to the next general election. If more than half of the voters in that contest vote for a party standing for independence, that will also carry the weight of a democratic expression of the will of the Scottish people.
Nicola Sturgeon reiterated the SNP’s determination to seek a way for Scotland to express its democratic will on this question:
“We must and will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will.In my view, that can only be an election The next national election scheduled for Scotland is the UK General Election, making it both the first and the most obvious opportunity to seek what I described back in June as a de facto referendum.”
7 The Supreme Court ruled Scotland can’t claim the international right to self-determination
The Scottish National Party made separate submissions to the Supreme Court in the case. It argued that Scotland could claim the right to self-determination under international law and that this should affect how the Scotland Act is interpreted. They quoted strong representations that the UK government had made to the UN in support of the principle of self-determination in other cases, such as Kosovo and the Falkland Isles.
But the Supreme Court rejected that. They interpreted cases over Quebec, Kosovo and the Falklands to mean that this right only applies to former colonies or where a people is oppressed under foreign military occupation, or where a defined group is denied equal access to government. The court said this position did not apply to Scotland.
8 So an ancient country with a voluntary Treaty has less right to self-determination than a colony?
So on the one hand, the Court said Scotland is not like a former colony, but on the other that it does not have the sovereignty to hold a referendum on its independence from the UK. That is a paradox.
Scotland is not a colony but a country with a long history, which entered into an international Treaty of Union with the UK. Surely that should make it easier, not harder to leave the Union?
9 The Supreme Court’s judgment changes the nature of the Union
The Supreme Court’s judgment means that it appears that the United Kingdom can no longer be seen as a voluntary Union. In her response, Nicola Sturgeon said that while some Unionists would crow over what they saw as a victory, others would be concerned.
“That is because they will understand that this judgment raises profound and deeply uncomfortable questions about the basis and future of the United Kingdom. Until now, it has been understood and accepted – by opponents of independence as well as by its supporters – that the UK is a voluntary partnership of nations.
“The Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs back in 1950 said this: “Scotland is a nation and voluntarily entered into the Union as a partner”. That sentiment was echoed nearly 60 years later by the cross-party Calman Commission which described the UK as “a voluntary union and partnership”. And it was reinforced in 2014 by the Smith Commission which made clear that “nothing in its report prevented Scotland becoming an independent country should the people of Scotland so choose. What today’s ruling tells us, however, is that the Scotland Act does not in fact uphold that long-held understanding of the basis of the relationships that constitute the UK – on the contrary, it shatters that understanding completely."
10 Independence is the only way for Scotland to become an equal partner in Britain's "family of nations"
Back in 2014, Scotland was told to "lead not leave" and that it was voting to remain in a partnership of equals. telling Scotland it now has no choice is likely to increase support for independence.
Independence support has already been increased by the disastrous Brexit that has been foisted upon Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon's statement said that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, Brexit is costing public revenues in Scotland upwards of £3.2 billion a year. Low-income households in the UK are now 22 percent poorer than their counterparts in France, and 21 percent poorer than in Germany. Independence is needed for Scotland to achieve its potential - the UK is holding Scotland back.
Let’s be blunt: a so-called partnership in which one partner is denied the right to choose a different future – or even to ask itself the question —cannot be described in any way as voluntary...And that exposes a situation that is quite simply unsustainable. In the words of former Tory Prime Minister, John Major: “No nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will Indeed, perhaps what today’s judgment confirms more than anything else, is that the only guarantee for Scotland of equality within the British family of nations is through independence – that fact is now clearer than ever before.”
The Supreme Court’s judgment ends the legal stage of the fight for Scotland’s independence. Scotland is a country with a long and proud history. If her people want to leave the Union that was entered into by a political treaty, then that is a democratic right.
The Supreme Court made clear that the voice of the Scottish people will carry huge political weight. If there cannot be a specific referendum on independence, that voice will be heard at the next General Election.
Almost two-thirds of Scots say the UK will break up within a decade, and half think it will take just five years, according to a new poll by Ipsos Mori.
Half of Scots want Scotland to vote for independence, with another 4% saying they don’t mind either way.
And despite the constant onslaught by Unionist politicians and media, most Scots say an independent Scotland will be either more prosperous or equally as prosperous as it is under Westminster rule.
Independence on 50% - with 4% saying they “don’t mind either way”
Asked if they would prefer Scotland to vote for or against independence, 50% of Scots said ‘for’, 43% ‘against’ with 4% saying they don’t mind either way and 2% ‘don’t know’.
In Northern Ireland, less than half - 43% said they would like Scotland to vote ‘against’ independence with 26% saying they ‘don’t mind either way’ and 28% saying ‘for’. In Wales and England, a slim majority of 54% wanted Scotland to vote against independence.
Only a quarter of Scots think the UK will last a decade in its current form
Asked if the UK will still exist in its current form in ten years, just a quarter of Scots, 26%, think it will, with 13% saying they don’t know, and 61% saying it will have broken up. And in just five years, less than half of Scots (42%) think the UK will still exist: 49% say it won’t still exist and 9% don’t know.
A majority of people in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England agree that the UK will have ceased to exist in its present form within a decade. Even in England, less than half - 46% - predict the UK will still exist in its current form in five years - down from 51% six months ago. If you take the timeline to 20 years, only around 20% in England and 11% in Northern Ireland say the UK will still exist in its current form.
Independent Scotland will either be better off or the same, say most Scots
More than half of Scots say that an independent Scotland would be either more prosperous (43%) or equally as wealthy (10%) as under Westminster rule, with less than half, 43% thinking independent Scotland would be worse off and 4% ticking ‘don’t know’.
In England, however, 58% of people think an independent Scotland would be worse off - but only 50% of those surveyed in Wales and 45% of those in Northern Ireland agree. The percentage of ‘don’t knows’ was higher in the other three UK countries than Scotland, at between 12 and 14%.
The rest of the UK more likely to be worse off when Scotland becomes independent
In all four nations, people are more likely to think the economies of the rest of the Union would be worse off (37%) than better off (20%) if Scotland became independent, with 45% of Scots saying that the rest of the UK will be worse off after independence.
There is widespread concern about the current state of the UK economy: 80% of Scots expect the general economic condition of the UK to worsen in the next 12 months, compared to 73% in February 2022. They are only slightly more optimistic about Scotland: 73% expect Scotland’s general economic condition to get worse over the year ahead, compared to 68% earlier this year.
Independence support is higher than average in this new poll.
The poll did not ask the standard Yes/No question on Scottish independence, opting rather to ask if people would prefer Scotland voted for or against independence. This will be due to the fact that it was a UK-wide poll. The figures for Scotland were 50% would prefer Scotland voted for independence versus 43% against. 4% had no preference and 2% were undecided. Now that adds up to 99% and we don't know where the rounding effect impacts so we can’t be 100% certain but we can estimate that this would result in 53% Yes 47% No as things stand.
This data was collected by Ipsos’s UK Knowledge Panel, a random probability panel which provides gold-standard insights into the UK population. Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 6,944 people over the age of 16 in the UK online from 13th to 19th October 2022.
The findings echo other recent polls showing Scotland moving towards independence
The polling echoes recent findings that most Scots have much more trust in the Scottish government than in Westminster. A poll by Panelbase for Believe in Scotland in October found that 50% of Scottish voters had more trust in the economic competence of the Holyrood government than in the UK Government. Only 28% had more trust in Westminster’s economic competence and 22% answered that they didn’t know.
Also published last month, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows that Scottish voters increasingly say they don’t trust Westminster to act in Scotland’s best interests. Two-thirds of respondents think that they can trust the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s interests, compared to just 22% who say the same about the UK Government.
It also confirms the long-term trend towards independence. Over the last decade, the number of Scots supporting independence has gone from around 28% to above 50%. The Social Attitudes survey began in 1997 and can map the trends since then. Ipsos Mori confirms the trend, with polling starting back in 1979, when support for independence stood at just 14%.
This recent data shows that Scots are growing in confidence and starting to look towards an independent future, where it will elect its own governments all of the time.
Labour leader Keir Starmer set out his pitch to Scotland on BBC’s flagship politics show “the Sunday Show” at the weekend. It was widely regarded as a car crash. Columnist Lesley Riddoch wrote: " a stumbling Keir Starmer hit the brick wall of Scottish political reality with a bang on TV on Sunday".
Starmer denied that Scotland has a democratic right to a referendum - while at the same time arguing that the damaging Brexit which as rejected by 62% of Scottish voters, is the "will of the people". Asked by interviewer Martin Geissler if the Union is voluntary, Starmer agreed - but then said that even if the Supreme Court rules a referendum is lawful, he would oppose one. He revealed the incoherence of his position - and doomed Labour to continued failure in Scotland.
Given that polling shows at least a third of Labour voters support a referendum and that the party has longstanding commitments to self-determination; this seems like a historic error. At the next general election, unless Labour changes their position on a referendum for Scotland, they are unlikely to improve their performance much (they currently have one Scottish MP).
Thus the next general election is likely to be the first time in history where the UK elects a Labour government which is rejected by Scottish voters as Scotland essentially votes for independence. At that point, will Labour really be able to argue that it has a mandate to govern Scotland? Will it be able to continue to deny the democratically-expressed wishes of the Scottish people?
The parting of ways
In his interview, Starmer said the reasons for the decline of the Labour vote in Scotland were essentially no different from in England. But this moment has been a long time coming. Scotland and the UK have been on different paths for a long time. Here is a look back at some of the points on the journey. The pattern has been that at 9 out of 13 elections since 1970, Scotland has ended up with a government it did not vote for.
1970 - Scotland votes decisively Labour but the UK elects a Conservative government
In June, 1970 the polls suggest a Labour win, but in fact the UK elects a Conservative government under Edward Heath. By contrast, in Scotland, the Labour party takes 44 seats out of 71, with the Conservatives getting only 23. (At an earlier election in 1959, when the UK voted Conservative, Labour took the majority of seats in Scotland but the Conservatives still got the largest share of the overall vote). This is the moment when Scotland and the UK diverge politically.
A commitment to more powers for Scotland turns into a lengthy Royal Commission
The Conservatives come into power that year with a commitment in the Queen's Speech to increase Scotland's say over her own affairs. The Conservatives have already felt the sands shifting under their feet. The old, Presbyterian, working-class Tory vote is moving away from the party - losing the douce suburb of Pollock in 1967 was the first inkling of the coming change.
So in 1968, with the Declaration of Perth, the Conservatives commit themselves to introducing Home Rule. That commitment turns into a long Royal Commssion, which does not report until 1973 - and nothing gets done.
“It is essential to maintain the system”
In his new book Scotland Rising, Gerry Hassan quotes the evidence that the Labour Party gives to the Royal Commission on devolution in May, 1970.
John Pollock, Labour MP, said: “The only effective way of solving the Sottish problem is to have a Labour government at Westminster, but we are prepared to put up with a short period in which a Conservative government might be the administration because we can more than make that good in our next administration. It is essential to maintain the kind of system in which a Labour government at Westminster in the future is able to control the country in the interests of all the people in the UK”
1974 - a Labour Government is elected but fails to deliver devolution
When the Labour Party comes to power in 1974, they are also committed to delivering Home Rule. They examine various ideas in a White Paper on devolution in 1975 - one of which is to replace the House of Lords with smaller chambers outside London, in the four nations of the UK (more radical than their current proposals). Nothing much happens for three years.
In 1978, the Scotland Act sets out the grounds for a referendum. In 1979, both the Labour Party and the SNP don’t confidently campaign for an Assembly with extremely limited powers. Important sectors such as the Universities turn against it. On the eve of the vote, former Conservative PM Alec Douglas Home invites Scots to vote ‘No’ promising the Tories in government will bring forward “better devolution proposals”; this never happens.
In fact, the people do vote ‘Yes; to a Scottish Assembly - by 52% yes to 48% No. This is similar to the Brexit result of 2016, which the Labour Party now accepts as a democratic mandate to “make Brexit work”. In contrast, the Labour Government of 1974-79 fails to deliver any change for Scotland and leaves power with the country’s affairs still in the hands of the Grand Committee.
Asked by the Royal Commission in 1970 if the Grand Committee has “adequate power of control” in the event of a Conservative Government , John Pollock, for Labour, said:
“If you accept the United Kingdom structure, as we do, such a situation may be the inevitable outcome of it.”
1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, Labour wins hugely in Scotland - but the UK votes Conservative
In these four elections, the Labour Party never gets fewer than 40 of Scotland’s 71 seats. In 1987, Neil Kinnock wins 50 of them. But in the context of the UK electing Conservative governments in a first past the post system, there is nothing Scotland’s Labour MPs can effectively do to challenge the Conservative Party’s agenda.
Iain McWhirter’s book, the Road to Referendum, charts the unfolding disaster of these years in Scotland. Industry is starved of investment. Decision-making power is centralised to London. The process culminates in the UK government deciding to use a hostile Scotland as a testing ground for the Poll Tax.
The Grand Committee ends up being packed with Tory MPs from the Shires, as there are too few Scottish Tories to ensure Conservative policies get pushed through.
1997 - the Labour Party takes power in the UK, continuing through 2001, 2005
In this election, Tony Blair sweeps to power and the Labour Party runs the UK until 2010.
During this period, they make some positive changes - but are unable to bring back the industry that was decimated. The generation that grew up in poverty and hopelessness in much of Scotland in the 1980s has been damaged - many will never fully recover - and the drugs pandemic that still rages through some of Scotland post-industrial wasteland should be understood in this context. These are ‘diseases of despair’.
Both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems signed up to the Scottish Constitutional Convention while in oppoition and are committed to devolution. In 1997, Labour holds a referendum, where there is a massive ‘Yes’ vote and the Scottish Parliament is reconvened after a 300-year pause in 1999.
2010 - Scotland votes Labour - but gets a Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition
Scotland now has fewer seats at Westminster - 59 instead of 71. Labour under Gordon Brown wins 41 of these, but the result is a coalition between David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. The first referendum on Scottish independence is held and lost, Joe Pike's book 'Project Fear' gives a warts-and-all account of the Labour party's role in Better Together and how Scotland was misled and bullied into voting no by Labour scaremongering.
2015 - Scotland elects an overwhelming majority of SNP MPs
The first independence referendum is held a matter of weeks before the 2015 general election. The day after that vote, the Conservatives announce that Scottish MPs will no longer be able to vote on most things in Westminster (EVEL - now repealed). Labour under Ed Miliband says it will not work with elected SNP MPs on shared priorities.
For the first time, Scotland rejects the Labour Party’s prospectus that long periods of Conservative rule are inevitable, but that the Labour Party will make good the damage whenever it gets back in. In that election, the SNP wins 56 out of 59 seats.
Hard Brexit forced on Scotland - despite those Better Together promises
The next year, the UK holds the Brexit referendum, and Scotland votes decisively to remain in the EU. Despite a central promise of the 2014 Better Together campaign being that Scotland should ‘lead not leave’, that it was a respected member of a voluntary Union, and that staying in the UK was the best way to protect EU membership, the UK government refuses to negotiate with Scotland.
2017 - the SNP wins a large majority of Westminster seats despite Unionist tactical voting
In 2017, the Unionist parties work more closely together - for example, the Daily Mail issues a supplement instructing its readers to vote Labour in certain constituencies to defend the Union. The Conservatives under Ruth Davidson stage a revival. Nevertheless, the SNP holds onto 35 of the 59 Westminster seats.
However, Scotland finds itself again being ruled by a Conservative government that Scotland did not elect.
In 2019, Boris Johnson is decisively rejected by Scots
The 2019 general election is regarded as having delivered a landslide for Boris Johnson to "get Brexit done". Ironically, the Conservatives UK vote share at that election (43%) is less than what the SNP gets in Scotland (45%), so it must be an even bigger landslide for the SNP, which wins 48 of the 59 seats.
But the UK Unionist parties - Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem, claim that this election simultaneously delivers an incontrovertible mandate for a hard Brexit - but no mandate whatsoever for an independence referendum. A hard Brexit is forced on Scotland. The Office for Budget Responsibility calculates that Brexit will shrink the UK economy by 4%, the equivalent of more than £100 billion a year.
Even after the Scottish general election of 2021 delivers a Parliament that strongly supports a referendum on independence, Labour and the Conservatives argue there is no mandate for one.
Starmer and Labour's position is unfair to Scotland
Keir Starmer's position that he respects the democratic will of the people of the UK - but not the democratic will of the people of Scotland is unfair. He cannot point to any way that Scotland can find a democratic path to a referendum on independence.
The UK Labour Party has not confronted the reality that many of their own potential supporters believe in self-determination for the people of Scotland. Some may plan to vote 'No" in the next referendum on independence - but they still recognise there is a democratic mandate for one.
If the Labour Party were to change its stance on an independence referendum, that could positively impact its electoral chances in Scotland. If it doesn't, that will ensure that every vote cast for Labour at the next general election will be read as a vote against self-determination for the people of Scotland. That simple fact means that we are approaching a historic moment. For the first time, the UK may elect a Labour government - but Scotland will voice a different preference. Independence.
An independent Scotland can have the governments it elects all the time, not just occasionally. It can pursue its own priorities, use its own assets and build its own future.