Support for Scottish independence at "highest ever" levels
Support for Scottish independence is at its highest ever level, according to a new opinion poll released today.
The IPSOS-Mori poll projected that 58% of Scottish voters would vote to leave the Union in a future referendum, with 55% saying they would do so if there was a referendum tomorrow compared to 39% who would vote No.
The SNP and its supporters are naturally delighted. Unionists, on the other hand, are pointing to margins of error within the polling, the fact that it is simply "one poll", and so on. Some have gleefully explained that a different poll, from Survation and Progress Scotland, points to a mere 6% lead for independence. There is nothing particularly unusual about these kinds of discussions.
However, I happen to agree with Scottish Greens' co-leader Patrick Harvie when he says "it’s clearer than ever that the UK simply isn’t working for Scotland and that we must take our future into our own hands to build a better Scotland."
We can of course be dismissive of polls. However, I would think it is dangerous to ignore the wider trends they point to. What is quite obvious is that, irrespective of the vagaries of polling data, since early May we have seen a series of polls that show a lead for the "Yes" vote. We are also seeing that this lead is gradually increasing. "No" has not had a lead of more than 1% in any poll since early December 2019. Something has changed - and is changing. It would be foolish to deny it.
There are those who naturally ridicule this kind of tweet, but actually it needs to be understood. It is an expression of fear. There are many who are (I think understandably) afraid of what changing attitudes towards independence may mean for Scotland, and they will look for hope in the strangest of places (including polling that gives the SNP 50% of the constituency vote) to reinforce their faltering belief that - somehow - if we keep on doing what we're doing the nasty nationalists (and their cause) will simply disappear. It is, quite simply, unfortunately symptomatic of a refusal to accept this changing reality.
I use the word "unfortunate" because a willingness to accept that the momentum has clearly shifted will enable us to more meaningfully engage with political conversation. It's not to late to change the record, adopt a new strategy and project our own vision for a progressive, Liberal Scotland - and perhaps also to adopt an ambition to poll more than 6% nationally. There may well, even at this stage, be opportunities to sell a positive vision of a different Scotland to the public.
Those who have followed my blog for several years will know that I backed Yes in 2014, mainly because I saw independence as the most realistic alternative to the failing constitutional status quo. I didn't necessarily believe that Yes Scotland would win (only that they might) but what I was absolutely convinced of was that if Scotland voted No then it would have been by a much smaller margin than many expected and that, going forward, the momentum would be with the pro-independence movement. This was widely dismissed, especially by many within my own party who felt all we had to do was "defeat nationalism" in a one-off referendum and everyone would then start talking about Devo Max and federalism. It's fair to say that plan hasn't really worked out too well for us.
Harvie is right. The Union isn't working for a lot of us - and even those who defend it must accept that it is now widely perceived not to be working. The old arguments are no longer going to resonate. We need change. We need to create a better Scotland.
I'm not going to get carried away by this rather remarkable poll. There is nothing (yet) inevitable about independence, but there has been a significant and undeniable shift in public attitudes. The pro-UK rhetoric that worked reasonably well six years ago now appears to be tired and out of touch against the backdrop of EU withdrawal, a frighteningly inept and inhuman Conservative government in Westminster and the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenge for Liberal Democrats is to find ways to use the situation to do as Patrick Harvie suggests and give the public reason to associate us with realistic proposals for changing Scotland for the better.
That's not an easy task at all given our recent struggles, but it could be made a little easier by accepting, rather than denying, the changing political realities all recent polling has pointed towards - only then can we possibly begin to address it.