13 February 2023

Two thirds of voters oppose de facto referendum, poll suggests

13 February 2023

Two thirds of voters are opposed to the First Minister’s plans to fight the upcoming general election as a de facto independence referendum, according to a new poll.

A survey by Lord Ashcroft Polls, published in the Holyrood magazine, has cast doubt on the SNP’s plans to treat the election, which must be held before January 2025, on the sole issue of the constitution.

The poll, which surveyed 2,105 Scots between January 26 and February 3, found that just one in five, or 21%, of respondents agreed the general election should be held on the single issue.

However, 67% said they did not agree, arguing that “people vote at elections for lots of different reasons – we cannot assume that every vote for the SNP or the Greens is a vote for Scottish independence”.

Nicola Sturgeon’s plans, which will be finalised in a special party conference in March, attempts to secure a pro-independence majority of votes.

The plans were announced after the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament did not have the competence to legislate on a referendum.

And only 44% of those who voted SNP in the 2019 general election were in favour of the approach, compared to 48% who were against.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy has said the results show that the First Minister is “vastly out-of-touch” with the public interest.

He said: “The public have delivered a damning verdict on Nicola Sturgeon’s arrogant and irresponsible plans to treat the next general election as a de facto referendum on independence.

“They are overwhelmingly opposed to her plan and have made it clear to the First Minister that they will vote on a range of issues in next year’s general election and are not prepared to pander to her independence obsession.

“Even SNP voters who voted for them at the last general election are sceptical and their concerns are also shared by senior figures within the party.

“Nicola Sturgeon is not only losing her grip within her own party, but she’s vastly out-of-touch with the public when it comes to a de facto referendum.”

And while the poll showed that 65% of respondents believed Scottish independence was the Scottish Government’s main priority, followed by gender and trans rights (46%) and health (22%), 62% of those surveyed favour health as the top issue, with independence at 14%.

The polling also showed 56% would vote against independence if the vote was held tomorrow, compared to 44% in favour, when the undecided voters were removed.

In response to the poll, SNP MSP Paul McLennan said: “At the Scottish Parliament elections, people voted overwhelmingly for a majority of MSPs offering them a chance to choose a better future as an independent country and that must be respected. It is utterly outrageous that Westminster party leaders continue to stand in the way of Scottish democracy.

“Be it under the Tories or Labour, Westminster control means people across Scotland are condemned to a bleak Brexit future. Scotland deserves far better, and the only way to build that better future is to become an independent country.”

The poll, which was conducted in the days following the conviction of double rapist Isla Bryson, who was housed in all-female prison Cornton Vale before being moved to the male estate.

Bryson who previously went by the name Adam Graham, was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow.

The case has caused controversy amid a debate around self-ID and the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Act, which was blocked by the UK Government.

Just 29% of respondents supported the Bill, compared to 54% against, while 33% were against the UK Government’s blocking of the legislation, compared to 50% in favour.

Lord Ashcroft Polls is a polling agency run by former Tory Party deputy chairman and businessman, Lord Michael Ashcroft.

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