May’s ‘No’ to Scots Doesn’t Mean ‘Yes’ to Sturgeon, Poll Shows

  • Support for staying in the U.K. remains at 55 percent
  • Nationalists try to build argument for new independence vote

Sturgeon Takes Aim at Theresa May During Speech

The political standoff over Scotland’s push for another independence referendum isn’t persuading more people to back the nationalist cause, according to the latest poll.

The survey by Kantar found more voters in Scotland don’t want independence or to have a vote on the issue. Among those certain to cast a ballot if one were held, support for staying in the U.K. was at 55 percent compared with 37 percent for leaving. Eight percent were undecided.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out discussing a date for a referendum that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says should be held by spring 2019, when the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union are clear. With Scotland opposing Brexit, the refusal would only boost support for independence, Sturgeon said last month. That has yet to be borne out in the electorate as the nationalists build their argument that Scotland should have the right to decide its own future.

“It is a cautionary reminder that the positive feeling towards the EU expressed in the EU referendum doesn’t necessarily translate into full support for independence for Scotland,” Tom Costley, head of Kantar in Scotland, said in a statement.

Kantar, formerly called TNS, contacted 1,060 people between March 29 and April 11, the period just after the Scottish Parliament backed Sturgeon’s plan to seek a new vote, though before May called a general election for June 8. The survey found 46 percent of respondents had no desire for another plebiscite, with 44 percent supporting one either in the fall of 2018 or sometime after. Ten percent didn’t know.

Single Issue

While backing for independence varies marginally from poll to poll, what’s notable is that the numbers have barely budged during a tumultuous time for Scottish and U.K. politics. 

In the last such referendum, in September 2014, Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent to remain in the U.K. The gap was narrower in a poll for the Herald newspaper published this week -- at 51 to 49 percent excluding undecided voters -- though still little changed in recent months.

Read More: QuickTake Q&A on Why Independence Is Back in Play

The Kantar poll showed some voters are switching allegiance as Scotland’s economy looms large following the collapse of North Sea oil revenue. Of the respondents who voted for independence previously, 22 percent would now vote against. At the same time, eight percent of respondents who voted “No” would switch to “Yes,” the survey found.

Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party says it shows it has less ground to make up and its army of activists can win it, while opponents -- May’s governing Conservatives and all other major U.K. political parties are against independence -- say it’s one vote too many.

“If the SNP wins this election in Scotland, and the Tories don’t, then Theresa May’s attempt to block our mandate to hold another referendum when the time is right will crumble to dust,” Sturgeon said in London last week.

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