Support for Scottish independence falls back

But support for the SNP nonetheless remains at very high levels ahead of the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.

The author(s)

  • Emily Gray Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland
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Ipsos MORI’s Scottish Political Monitor, run in partnership with STV News, finds that the SNP are still in pole position ahead of May’s Holyrood elections. However, support for Scottish independence has fallen since last November - by four percentage points. The First Minister’s satisfaction ratings have also dropped since last October, although they remain the highest of any of the party leaders.

  • 52% say they are likely to vote for the SNP in the constituency vote, while 23% will vote for the Scottish Conservatives and 15% for Scottish Labour;
  • 52% would vote Yes in an independence referendum, slipping slightly from 56% in November - while 48% would vote No;
  • Scottish independence is seen as the most important issue in helping people decide which party to vote for (44%), followed by education (32%), healthcare/ NHS (25%) and coronavirus (20%).
  • Over a third of Scots (36%) say the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the accusations against Alex Salmond has made them less favourable towards the SNP, although most (58%) say it has made no difference to their view of the party. 

Scottish Parliament voting intention

The SNP retains a very comfortable lead in voting intention for both constituency and list votes in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections, with the Conservatives in second place and Labour in third. 

Headline Scottish Parliament voting intention figures for the constituency vote are:

  • SNP: 52% (-3 compared with 20-26 November)
  • Scottish Conservatives: 23% (+1)
  • Scottish Labour: 15% (+1)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
  • Scottish Green Party: 3% (+2)
  • Other: 2% (unchanged)

Headline Scottish Parliament voting intention figures for the regional vote are:

  • SNP: 47% (unchanged)
  • Scottish Conservatives: 22% (unchanged)
  • Scottish Labour: 14% (-2)
  • Scottish Green Party: 8% (+1)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 6% (unchanged)
  • Other: 3% (+1)

Three in ten (31%) say they may change their mind about which party they’ll cast their constituency vote for:

  • Those who say they’ll vote SNP or Conservative are surer of their vote than those voting Labour. Labour voters who may change their mind are most likely to consider the SNP, while SNP voters who may change their mind are most likely to consider Labour. 

Top issues for voters

  • Independence is seen as the top issue helping voters decide which party they’ll vote for, with 44% mentioning it (note these are spontaneous, top-of-mind responses, not prompted). 
  • Independence is followed by education (mentioned by 32% of voters), the NHS (25%), coronavirus (20%) and the economy (18%).

Top issues for voters

Salmond inquiry 

There are signs that the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the accusations against Alex Salmond is starting to impact on voters’ perceptions of the SNP. 

  • Over a third of Scots (36%) say the inquiry has made them less favourable towards the SNP, although most (58%) say it has made no difference to their view of the party. 
  • Among those who voted SNP at the last General Election, one in five (21%) say it has made them less favourable towards the SNP. 

Impact of Alex Salmond Inquiry

Scottish independence

  • Support for independence has slipped, although Yes retains a narrow lead. Among those who would be likely to vote in an independence referendum, 52% say they would vote Yes while 48% would vote No. This is lower than in November 2020, when Ipsos MORI/STV polling showed a larger Yes lead (56% Yes/ 44% No). 

Support for scottish independence

  • Over half (56%) of Scots say that the UK Government should allow another independence referendum to be held within the next five years if the SNP wins a majority of seats in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections – while 41% say that the UK Government should not allow this. Support for this has fallen by eight percentage points since October 2020.
  • In the event that the SNP wins a majority of seats but the UK Government refuses to allow another independence referendum, two in five Scots (42%) say that the Scottish Government should accept that a referendum cannot be held in the next five years unless the UK Government changes its mind. A third (34%) think the Scottish Government should take the UK Government to court to try and establish a legal basis for holding a referendum, while 18% say the Scottish Government should hold another referendum anyway without the UK Government’s consent.

Party leaders

  • Nicola Sturgeon remains the highest rated party leader among the Scottish public, with a ‘net’ satisfaction rating of +32 – although this is 16 points lower than when Ipsos MORI and STV last polled on this in October 2020. 

Satisfaction with Scottish Party Leaders

  • Scots are split on whether Anas Sarwar or Monica Lennon would make the best leader for Scottish Labour - 28% say Sarwar would be the best leader and 25% favour Lennon, while 44% don’t know. 
  • Among those who say they would vote Labour in May, Sarwar enjoys a narrow lead, with 40% saying he would be the best leader compared with 35% who say the same of Lennon.

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

This latest poll from Ipsos MORI and STV News shows a fall in support for independence, and a corresponding increase in support for staying in the Union – though Yes still has a four-point lead over No. That’s important for Scotland’s political parties, since independence is the top issue voters say will help them make up their minds about which party to vote for in May’s Holyrood elections. At this point the SNP look on course to win a majority of seats, but the next few weeks are set to be challenging for the party, with the Salmond inquiry ongoing – and our poll shows that this issue has started to cut through with Scottish voters.

 

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,031 adults aged 16+ across Scotland. Interviews were conducted by telephone 15-21 February 2020. Data are weighted to the profile of the population. 
Scottish Parliament voting intention figures are based on all expressing a voting intention and saying they would be at least 9/10 likely to vote in a Scottish Parliament election.
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)

  • Emily Gray Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland

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