Is Scotland moving towards independence?

By James Cook
Chief news correspondent for The Nine

Publishedduration2 days ago

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionYes campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament building after 2014 referendum saw a majority for No

Opinion polls suggest a consistent majority of Scots are now in favour of independence. What is driving this surge in support?

When Scotland awoke one grey autumn morning in 2014, it seemed that nothing much had changed.

For a start, the weather was typically Scottish – damp, dreary, drizzly – for another, the union with England, which had endured for more than three centuries, remained unbroken.

After years of passionate disagreement, the votes had been counted overnight and Scotland had decided against becoming an independent country by 55.3% to 44.7% – a substantial but not overwhelming margin.

Six more spins around the sun and the independence campaign continues, in a very different world.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe independence campaign continues in a very different world

The UK has withdrawn from the European Union despite a majority in Scotland opposing that move.

A deadly virus has ravaged the globe, leaving more than a million people dead.

Lockdown and other restrictions have left the UK economy reeling, with the UK government borrowing mind-boggling sums to support unemployed workers and save shuttered businesses.

The powers – and limits – of the Scottish Parliament, particularly over health and education, have been demonstrated more dramatically than at any point since they were devolved from London to Edinburgh in 1999.

The contrasting styles of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have been plain to see.

Even the climate can be said to have changed.

Research suggests that last year, for the first time, a majority in every age group in Scotland regarded climate change as an immediate and urgent problem. As a result oil, once Scotland’s most valuable asset, has gone very much out of fashion.

Opinion polls

Amid all this turmoil, the public mood, it seems, has shifted too.

In the past four months nine opinion polls in a row have indicated that Scottish independence is now backed by a majority of voters, the most sustained period of support for secession in modern history.

One recent survey, by Ipsos MORI for STV News, suggested that the “yes” vote had risen to a record high of 58%, excluding those who answered “don’t know”.

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, says that poll may be an outlier but even so he reckons support for independence is running at an average of 54%.

Sir John has also noted that the gender gap, which saw women more reluctant than men to support independence, seems to have vanished and that increasing numbers of younger voters appear to favour leaving the UK.

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