Four in five Scots say Nicola Sturgeon has handled the coronavirus outbreak well

New Ipsos poll for BBC Scotland finds widespread nervousness among the public about coming out of lockdown.

The author(s)
  • Dr. Emily Gray Managing Director, Scotland
  • Ciaran Mulholland Ipsos Scotland
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A new poll from Ipsos for BBC Scotland finds that the Scottish public rate the First Minister’s and the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis much more highly than Boris Johnson’s or the UK Government’s.

Over three quarters (78%) of Scots think the Scottish Government has handled the crisis well so far, compared with 34% who say the same of the UK Government.

Ratings of how leaders and governments have handled the crisis - Ipsos


The picture is similar when it comes to the leaders of the two governments: 82% think Nicola Sturgeon has handled the crisis well, while 30% say the same of Boris Johnson. Over half of Scots say that Boris Johnson and the UK Government have handled the crisis badly (55% and 51% respectively).

These sentiments are reflected in Scots’ views of government communications during the crisis. An overwhelming majority (86%) feel the Scottish Government’s messaging has been clear around what to do in response to the coronavirus, with just 8% saying it has been unclear. However, the Scottish public are much more critical of the UK Government’s messaging, with more saying it has been unclear (48%) than that it has been clear (39%).

Clarity of messaging from the UK Government and the Scottish Government on the coronavirus

Lockdown restrictions

Most Scots (70%) feel that lockdown restrictions were introduced too late, with just a quarter (26%) saying they were introduced at the right time. And we appear to be in no rush to come out of lockdown; three quarters (77%) feel that moving too quickly to lift the restrictions is a bigger risk to Scotland than moving too slowly.

Going into lockdown in Scotland - Ipsos

There is support for divergence between Scottish Government and UK Government approaches to emerging from lockdown: most (81%) feel that restrictions should be lifted in Scotland at a different time to the rest of the UK if the Scottish Government believes that is necessary. 

When it comes to easing specific restrictions, views differ depending on the measure in question. Most support the idea of being able to meet a friend or family member who is not from your household outside: 77% think this should be permitted now, 21% think it should not (note that the survey was carried out before the First Minister’s announcement on 21 May that this would be permitted from 28 May onwards). On other measures, Scots are divided on whether people should return to work if they are not able to work from home: while 42% say this should be permitted now, 46% say it should not. Many more oppose (64%) than support (30%) the idea of shops selling non-essential items being permitted to re-open now.

More think that people aged 70 and over should not be required to stay at home after lockdown restrictions have been lifted for other age groups than think they should be required to (52% and 39% respectively). Two thirds (66%) of the over 55s feel that people aged 70 and over should not be required to stay at home once the restrictions ease. However, younger people are more in favour, with over half (56%) of those aged 16-34 saying that people aged 70 and over should stay at home once the restrictions ease and 37% saying they should not.

Views on lockdown measures for people over 70 in Scotland - Ipsos

There is little appetite for schools in Scotland reopening before summer: three quarters (76%) of those with school age children living in their household said they would be uncomfortable sending their children to school if they reopened in June 2020, with half (52%) saying they would be very uncomfortable. Women are more likely to say they would be uncomfortable with sending children to school then men are (79% and 71% respectively).

Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos Scotland, commented:

These findings will come as very positive news for the First Minister and the Scottish Government, with a clear majority of Scots saying they have handled the coronavirus outbreak well. The Scottish public overwhelmingly say the Scottish Government’s messages about the coronavirus have been clear. This is in sharp contrast to how they feel about the UK Government’s messages, which two in five Scots say have been unclear. But the communications challenge will arguably become more difficult over the coming weeks and months as lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted.
While the Scottish public believe we entered lockdown too late, we are nervous about moving out of lockdown too quickly. We are divided on whether those who cannot work from home should be permitted to return to work at present, and those with children will need considerable reassurance if they are to feel comfortable sending their children back to school.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 Scottish adults aged 16+ by telephone between 14th and 20th May 2020. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

The author(s)
  • Dr. Emily Gray Managing Director, Scotland
  • Ciaran Mulholland Ipsos Scotland

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