Scottish independence: Survey suggests 32% back going-it-alone

Prof John Curtice says the survey suggests no long term shift in attitudes to independence

New research has suggested that 32% of people support Scottish independence.

The British Social Attitudes report questioned more than 3,000 people across the UK on subjects such as the NHS, devolution and immigration.

The SNP-run Scottish government is planning to hold a referendum on independence in autumn 2014.

The attitudes survey, which devotes one chapter to Scottish independence, concludes the Union has never been closer to being dissolved.

The annual questionnaire attempts to gauge the mood of Britons on a range of issues and this year it included the views of 1,200 people in Scotland.

The 32% who supported independence was nine points higher than in 2010 but two points lower than in 2005.

However, the research also suggested 43% of people in Scotland wanted Holyrood to make "all" decisions.

The higher figure emerged in a question in which the word "independence" was not used, and where a second option on so-called devo-max - more power short of independence - was given.

The report also said that people were, on balance, relatively favourable to the concept of independence.

Material benefit

More people thought Scotland would have a stronger voice in the world, stronger economy and better standards of living and health care under independence.

The exception was taxation, which most people thought would be worse or weaker.

The report states: "However, at present it appears that leaving the UK remains a minority preference, not least because people in Scotland are doubtful that it would bring them much material benefit."

Attitudes to Scottish independence

Survey graphic

Support for independence in Scotland

  • 2011 - 32%
  • 2010 - 23%
  • 2005 - 35%

Scottish Parliament should make all decisions

  • 2011 - 43%
  • 2010 - 28%

Those in England who said Scotland should leave the UK

  • 2011 - 26%
  • 1997 - 14%

Those in England who believe Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending

  • 2011 - 44%
  • 2007 - 32%
  • 2000 - 21%

Read more from the chapter authors John Curtice and Rachel Ormston

South of the border, there appeared to be a big rise in the number of people saying Scotland should leave the Union with 26% saying the country should go - up from 14% in 1997.

The report's authors, Prof John Curtice of Strathclyde University and Rachel Ormston who is research director at ScotCen, said opinion in England could prove pivotal to the future make-up of the UK.

Prof Curtice told BBC Scotland that the latest survey showed no significant change in the support for or against independence.

He explained: "This survey suggests that over the long run, there is no trend in one direction or the other.

"Support has tended to oscillate between around a quarter and a third in this survey. The most recent reading at 32% is to the higher end of the range.

"But in truth there isn't any clear evidence that either one side or the other, over the whole period of devolution, has made significant progress in reducing support for independence or increasing it."

Politicians from both sides of the constitutional debate said the findings showed support for their stance.

A spokesman for Better Together said: "No matter how the Nationalists try and dress this up, the simple fact is that, when asked the question about breaking up Britain, the majority of Scots say that they do not want it.

"They do not want the uncertainty of having to negotiate our way into the EU, they do not want to have to face the prospect of adopting the Euro and they don't want to pay more taxes."

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the pro-independence group Yes Scotland, said the report was "exceptionally positive".

He added: "Independence is about growing and developing as a normal, aspirational and successful country in which the decisions about Scotland's future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people of Scotland."

Special remit

Meanwhile, a committee of MPs has said it wants to review progress of proposals for the staging of the independence referendum before they are endorsed by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.

Ian Davidson, Labour MP and chairman of the Commons' Scottish Affairs Committee, said he was keen to have "further input" before the process is complete.

His comments came as Mr Moore prepared to appear before the committee at Westminster later.

Mr Moore has been holding talks with Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP minister with a special remit for the referendum.

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