‘Loathing’ of Boris Johnson fueling surge in support for Scottish independence: poll

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s leadership is the biggest factor driving swing voters in Scotland towards backing independence, according to an extensive new analysis of public opinion on a fresh referendum. 

Brexit, the U.K. government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to settle the question once and for all were among the most persuasive arguments for independence among undecided and swing voters surveyed as part of polling by JL Partners, the firm led by Theresa May’s former pollster James Johnson. But none proved as persuasive as the argument: “Boris Johnson is not the leader I want to have for my country” — a sentiment 79 percent of swing voters agreed with. 

The poll of 1,016 Scottish voters, conducted in September and shared exclusively with POLITICO, gave independence a 56 to 44 percent lead, excluding those who said they did not know. The 12-point lead is in line with other recent polls showing a growing lead for a Yes vote in any future referendum. POLITICO’s latest Poll of Polls puts the lead for Yes at 50 to 42, with 8 percent undecided. Fifty-five percent of voters backed “no” in Scotland’s first independence referendum in 2014.

Worryingly for Downing Street, the study also found that the U.K. government’s current opposition to holding another independence referendum would prove unpopular should First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) win a majority in next May’s Scottish parliament elections, with 53 percent of swing voters surveyed last month saying the U.K. government would be wrong to deny a new referendum in that scenario.

An SNP majority in Scotland is considered increasingly likely, with the poll putting the party well ahead on 58 percent of the constituency vote. POLITICO’s Poll of Polls has the SNP on 54 percent. 

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