Lord Ashcroft: My new vote finds Sturgeon a losing constitutional battle

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information on his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com.

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP government have had an unusually difficult few weeks. As my new poll of more than 2,000 voters in Scotland confirms, the loss is largely self-inflicted. In particular, most Scots – including many former SNP supporters – oppose Sturgeon’s position on gender recognition and the idea of ​​framing the next election as a real referendum on independence.

gender recognition

On Sturgeon’s latest clash with Westminster – the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill – I found just one in five Scots (22 per cent) say they support the bill and that London was wrong to block it. Almost twice as many (43 per cent) said they opposed the bill and that the UK government was right to block it.

Overall, more than half (54 percent) said they opposed the reform, compared to 29 percent in favor. Half said the UK government was right or within its rights to stop the law, with 33 per cent saying it was wrong to do so.

By 50 per cent to 28 per cent, Scottish voters said they would make a law in Westminster that they disagreed with made in Scotland. A quarter of those who voted SNP in 2019 and almost 3 in 10 of those who voted Yes in the 2014 referendum said they would prefer a London law they agreed with.

Another response to the gender recognition row is the message it sends about the Scottish Government’s agenda. When we asked voters what they thought were the most important issues facing Scotland, the top three answers were health and the NHS, the cost of living and the economy and jobs.

But when we asked which of the three Sturgeon and the SNP currently considered their top priority, 65 per cent cited achieving Scottish independence, followed by 46 per cent naming gender recognition and trans rights – with the NHS a distant third (22 per cent). Three per cent of Scots say gender recognition is one of the most important issues to them.

Scottish independence

If a referendum were held tomorrow, 37 per cent said they would vote yes for Scottish independence, 48 per cent would vote no and 15 per cent said they did not know or would not vote. Excluding these voters, we have a 12-point lead for No, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Scots were more likely to think such a referendum would reject independence (42 per cent) than to win for Yes (33 per cent). Asked what the outcome would be in five years’ time, they were more evenly split: 36 per cent thought Scotland would vote yes, 31 per cent thought it would vote no, and a third said they did not know.

Overall, Scots feel that tax rates, food prices, unemployment, immigration, fuel bills and NHS waiting times will increase rather than decrease if Scotland becomes independent – as will equality, Scotland’s position in the world, and Scotland’s trade volume with the rest of the world.

They thought living standards, investment from UK businesses, Scotland’s ability to manage another financial crisis or pandemic, opportunities for young people and educational attainment would decline rather than increase. They were evenly split on whether to increase or decrease public spending in Scotland.

On balance, Scottish voters thought that an independent Scotland would keep the pound as its currency, that many businesses would leave, that Scotland would quickly rejoin the EU, that Scots would lose access to public services such as specialist healthcare. In England, the King would remain Scotland’s head of state – and (in particular) that Scotland would spend years negotiating a deal with the UK government and the Scottish government would have to make painful cuts in public spending.

By a narrow margin they thought it more likely (45 percent) than likely (39 percent) to have a hard border between Scotland and England.

Just over half (53 per cent) of 2019 SNP voters, including just 28 per cent, said the Scottish Government’s performance in public services and the economy made them more confident in voting for an independent Scotland. 42 per cent (including 18 per cent of 2019 SNP voters and 24 per cent of 2014 Yes voters) said the Scottish Government’s performance made them less confident in voting Yes.

Three in ten Scots (29 per cent) said they had changed their mind on the independence question at least once, including 13 per cent who had changed their mind more than once. Those who voted SNP in 2019 (38 per cent), Yes voters (35 per cent) and those who currently lean towards the Greens (39 per cent) were the most likely to have changed their mind one or more times.

A reference to the truth?

There was little support for the SNP’s plan to use the next general election to claim a mandate for independence. Just over 1 in 5 Scots (21 per cent) agreed that “every vote for the SNP or the Greens should be taken as a vote for Scottish independence, so the next general election should be taken as a genuine independence referendum”.

Two thirds (67 per cent) agree that “people vote in elections for different reasons – we cannot assume that a vote for the SNP or the Greens is a vote for Scottish independence”.

Current SNP supporters were the only party that supported the idea of ​​a genuine referendum (and only by 50 per cent to 41 per cent). Those currently willing to vote for the Green Party, whose leaders have signed up to the plan, oppose the idea by 56 percent to 40 percent – perhaps because, while only 64 percent said they would vote for independence tomorrow, they are not keen on reading their electoral ballot as a demand for constitutional change. .

Of those who say they will vote yes to independence tomorrow, 50 per cent say they think the next general election should be treated as a real referendum; 39 percent disagree.

However, when we look at voters who are 51/100 or more likely to vote for a party, we find that the SNP and Greens combined could struggle to control the majority of voters on which the plan depends: 40 per cent of likely voters. were leaning towards the SNP, five per cent were leaning towards the Greens; Labor had 25 per cent, the Conservatives 18 per cent, the Lib Dems six per cent, Reform UK three per cent and Alba two per cent.

EU membership

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, claimed that a Yes vote in a referendum would be a vote for an independent Scotland within the EU, so no further vote on EU membership would be required. I found that Scots voters do not see things the same way.

Just over half of 2019 SNP voters (58 per cent) and just 36 per cent, including just under half of Yes voters in 2014 (48 per cent), think an independent Scotland should join the EU without another referendum.

Just under a third (32 per cent) think an independent Scotland should hold another referendum to decide whether or not to join, while 16 per cent – ​​including almost half (49 per cent) of Conservatives in 2019 – think Scotland should stay out of the EU. .

A politician in a word

Finally, we asked voters what words or phrases come to mind when they think of leading political figures. The collective answers speak for themselves…

The full data table is available at LordAshcroftPolls.com.