Yes pulls ahead and SNP strengthens support

Support for Scottish independence has risen by 6 points since our last poll for STV News in May.

The author(s)

  • Dr. Emily Gray Managing Director, Scotland
  • Rachel Ormston Public Affairs, Scotland
  • Sally Abernethy Public Affairs, Scotland
  • Tom Coyle Public Affairs, Scotland
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Ipsos’ Scottish Political Monitor, run in partnership with STV News, finds support for independence has risen by 6 points since our last poll in May. Among those with a voting intention and very likely to vote, 56% say they would vote Yes in an immediate referendum while 44% say they would vote No.

The SNP remain the dominant party in Scotland – 51% of those likely to vote say they would vote for them in an immediate General Election. Labour remains in second place on vote share, at 25%, while the Conservatives have slipped further to 13%.

Treating the next election as a de facto referendum on independence appears unlikely to dent the SNP’s vote share: indeed, 53% of those likely to vote say they would vote SNP in this situation. With a further 2% saying they would vote for the Scottish Green Party, this would take the vote share for pro-independence parties to 55%.

However, trust in the SNP to tackle a range of issues facing Scotland has fallen in the last 18 months. Trust in the party to manage the NHS has fallen by 18 percentage points since April 2021, and healthcare/NHS is the top issue that the public see facing Scotland.

General Election voting intention

The SNP remain clearly ahead in voting intentions. At 51%, the proportion of likely voters who say they would vote for them in an immediate General Election is 6 points higher than the 45% who voted for them in the last General Election in December 2019.

At 25%, Labour’s support is higher than the 19% of the vote they achieved in 2019. It takes them into second place, ahead of the Conservatives on 13% (who are 12 points down on the 25% share of the vote they took in 2019).

Headline UK General Election voting intention figures for Scotland are:

  • SNP: 51% (+7 compared with May 2022 Ipsos poll)
  • Scottish Conservatives: 13% (-6)
  • Scottish Labour: 25% (+2)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 6% (-4)
  • Scottish Green Party: 3% (unchanged)
  • Other: 2% (unchanged)

Scottish Independence

  • The poll shows a clear lead for Yes. Among those likely to vote either Yes or No in an immediate referendum, 56% say they would vote Yes and 44% No. Yes support is up 6 percentage points compared with our May 2022 poll.
  • However, the public remain divided on the best time to hold another referendum – 35% think there should be one before the end of 2023, while 34% think it should be later than this (17% between 2024 and 2026, and 17% later than 2026). The proportion saying there should never be another referendum is down 5 points since May, at 26%.

Support for Scottish independence: Change over time. If a referendum were held tomorrow about Scotland’s constitutional future, how would you vote in response to the following question: Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes 56% No 44%

Top issues facing Scotland today

The top five key issues concerning for the Scottish public are:

  • Healthcare/the NHS (41% mention this as an important issue facing Scotland, up 14 percentage points since May 2022)
  • Inflation/ the rising cost of living (28% mention this as an important issue facing Scotland, similar to the 30% who mentioned it in May 2022)
  • Education and schools (23%, similar to the 24% who mentioned this in May)
  • Scottish independence/devolution (23%, up 6 percentage points since May).
  • The economy (21%, similar to the 22% who mentioned this in May 2022)

Trust in parties

  • The Scottish National Party remains more trusted by the Scottish public than either the Scottish Conservative Party or the Scottish Labour Party to deal effectively with a range of issues facing Scotland.
  • On most issues, however, fewer than half of the public say they trust the SNP a great deal or quite a lot. Public trust in the SNP to manage the NHS has fallen by 18 percentage points since April 2021. Trust in the party to stand up for Scotland’s interests, manage Scotland’s economy, tackle inequality and manage education and schools in Scotland has also fallen – by 10, 10, 9 and 8 percentage points respectively.
  • This fall in public trust is not unique to the SNP. Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives are also less trusted now across a range of issues than they were in April 2021.

Leader satisfaction

  • Scots’ satisfaction with many of their political leaders has fallen since May.
  • Nicola Sturgeon remains the leader with the highest satisfaction rating, with 52% saying they are satisfied with her performance as First Minister. However, net satisfaction with her performance (the proportion satisfied minus the proportion dissatisfied) has fallen slightly – from +12 in May 2022 to +9.  
  • Anas Sarwar’s ratings have fallen – 40% are satisfied with his performance as Scottish Labour leader, while 37% are dissatisfied and 23% don’t know enough to rate him. While still on balance positive, his net satisfaction has fallen from +19 in May to +3 now.
  • Dissatisfaction with Keir Starmer has increased – 37% are satisfied with his performance as leader of the UK Labour Party, while 50% are dissatisfied. His net satisfaction has fallen from -2 in May to -13 now.
  • Rishi Sunak receives a negative net satisfaction rating from Scots, of -21, with 32% satisfied and 53% dissatisfied with his performance as Prime Minister. Although his overall rating is low, Sunak nonetheless appears to fare comparatively better among the Scottish public than Boris Johnson, who received a -71 net satisfaction rating in Ipsos’ May poll. Rishi Sunak’s rating is also less negative than Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross’s, whose net satisfaction rating is -38.

Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos in Scotland, commented:

These new results from Ipsos and STV News show an increase in both support for independence and support for the SNP. Whether this is a temporary ‘bounce’ in the wake of the recent Supreme Court judgement or a longer-lasting trend remains to be seen. Meanwhile, with the judgement narrowing the legal pathways to a second referendum, the SNP is considering treating the next General Election as a de facto referendum on independence. This is a high-risk strategy for the party, who secured 45% of the vote in 2019. However, the indication from this poll is that, at this stage at least, this is not harming their electoral chances. At the same time, there are some indications that wider public ratings of the SNP have slipped. While the SNP remains comparatively more trusted than other parties, trust in their ability to manage a range of crucial issues – including the NHS and the economy – has fallen significantly over the last 18 months.

Technical note

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,065 adults aged 16+ across Scotland.
  • Interviews were conducted by telephone 28 November – 5 December 2022.  
  • Data are weighted to the profile of the population.
  • Where results do not sum to 100%, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” categories.
  • All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.

The author(s)

  • Dr. Emily Gray Managing Director, Scotland
  • Rachel Ormston Public Affairs, Scotland
  • Sally Abernethy Public Affairs, Scotland
  • Tom Coyle Public Affairs, Scotland

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