Support for Scottish independence in the wake of the Brexit referendum is now effectively neck-and-neck, according to a new poll released Wednesday (8 February).
The survey, for the Herald newspaper in Glasgow, puts support for independence at 49% and for the status quo at 51%, excluding don’t knows.
It comes against a backdrop of British Prime Minister successfully getting through a parliament a bill allowing MPs to vote on a final Brexit deal – but with very little consultation or safeguards against a so-called ‘Hard Brexit.’
Whilst still showing a theoretical victory for the status quo, it is within a statistical margin of error – and compares with the 2014 referendum result of 45% for independence and 55% against.
The seismic vote by the UK as a whole – but not Scotland, Northern Ireland or Gibraltar – to leave the EU last year has brought fresh pressure on the Scottish National party minority government in Edinburgh to hold a fresh referendum.
That has increased with confirmation from Theresa May that Brexit will mean leaving the single market, and – as yet – no deal on the rights of EU workers in the UK, and vice-versa.
Alex Salmond, the SNP’s former leader, first minister, and foreign affairs spokesman for the party at the Westminster parliament, tweeted the result with the words “Game On.”
He is widely seen as being more gung-ho about a second referendum than First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who must balance the possibility of both losing it, and ‘referendum-fatigue’ among Scots, who have indicated they do not want another referendum in the near future.
Her strongest words have been that another referendum is now “highly likely”, and allies have suggested it could be as early as 2018.
Sturgeon – along with the Labour devolved administration in Cardiff, the Welsh capital – is invovlved in ongoing ‘Joint Ministerial Councils’ with the UK government, but with little concrete say, let alone a veto, over what form Brexit takes.
The SNP said the latest poll showed the independence debate is now “a virtual dead heat”.
“If the Tories continue with their blind pursuit of a hard Brexit, ignoring the clear view of an overwhelming majority of people in Scotland, then more and more people will see independence as the option delivering certainty and stability,” said party chair Derek Mackay.
Conducted among 1,067 voters over 16, the poll asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” with 43% saying “Yes” and 45% saying “No”. The remainder were undecided or would not say.
It represents a three-point swing towards independence from a similar BMG/Herald poll conducted in December.
However, the survey also found 56 percent of Scots do not want another independence referendum before the conclusion of Brexit negotiations, expected in 2019.
Key problems for the independence campaign in 2014 where the question of abandoning the pound sterling for the euro – then at the height of the Greek crisis – and the low price of oil, one of Scotland’s key potential exports.
The Herald was the only major Scottish newspaper to back independence the first time around.