Scotland Election 2016

Holyrood 2016: NHS is top priority to voters, BBC poll suggests

Health worker
Image caption The poll suggests a strong backing for spending on the NHS in Scotland

Voters in Scotland attach high priority to protecting public spending on the NHS, a poll for BBC Scotland suggested.

And they also give big billing to the idea that a Scottish university education should continue to be free for students from Scotland.

For our survey, Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,002 people across Scotland between 18 and 29 March.

Respondents were asked to rank a range of policies from one up to 10, generating an average score.

A guarantee that NHS spending would be increased so that it at least keeps pace with health spending in England drew apparent support. It was rated 8.3, the highest response in our survey.

There was lower support for the Conservative idea of reintroducing prescription charges for those able to afford them. Roughly a third of respondents were reasonably happy with the idea but that was outweighed by those who were sceptical or hostile. The net rating was 5.3.

The second top spot in our survey - the silver medal, if you like - went to education. Or, more precisely, the idea that all students from Scotland should be able to attend Scottish universities for free.

That policy, implemented by the SNP, is now endorsed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Conservatives support a charge, paid back when students graduate and are earning a reasonable salary. In our poll, free university education rated 8.1.

BBC Scotland election poll

Who? - 1,002 voters aged 16 and over

When? - Carried out between Friday 18 March and Tuesday 29 March

How? - On the telephone with data being weighted by gender, age, working status, housing tenure and region.

By? - Ipsos MORI Scotland

Still with education, there was a respectable rating of 6.7 for narrowing the attainment gap by giving more money to schools with a high proportion of kids from poorer backgrounds.

There was also substantial apparent support for the idea of subsidising the cost of developing new sources of energy that are less harmful to the environment. That rated a net 7.7.

Still with energy and the environment, there is the question of fracking, or unconventional drilling for shale gas. Most backed a ban - but many did not, generating a net score of 6.2 for the idea of prohibiting this practice in Scotland.

Scotland's public expenditure in 2014-15


Total expenditure

  • £11.5bn Health

  • £7.6bn Education and training

  • £2.8bn Policing

  • £2.7bn Transport


It is currently subject to a moratorium imposed by the Scottish government, with Nicola Sturgeon signalling she is deeply sceptical about fracking. Labour and the Greens favour a ban, as do the Liberal Democrats (after some internal machinations). The Conservatives say fracking could help the economy.

Among other issues;

  • cutting Air Passenger Duty, when Scotland has the power, rates 6.1
  • a ban on growing GM foods rates 5.7, close to the midway point
  • a Labour policy to give an extra £3,000 to people who have saved £3,000 for a first home deposit is rated 6.5.

Then there's the suggestion of scrapping the law which, among other things, seeks to restrict football supporters from singing songs that some people find offensive. Labour has led opposition to this SNP measure.

The idea of a ban rated 4.9, the lowest in our survey - although the idea is far from universally dismissed. Opinion tended to be fairly polarised.

What about the constitution?

Finally there is the constitution. Respondents were asked to give their view on whether there should be another referendum on Scottish independence in the event that Britain votes to leave the European Union.

The net rating for this question was 5.6, right down the centre of a range from one to 10. However, that does not tell the full story.

Roughly one third of respondents rated this issue 10, meaning it should get top priority. One third voted One, meaning it should never happen. And the final third? They were somewhere in the middle.

BBC Scotland Holyrood election 2016 poll

Eleven questions on health, education, fracking, independence and sectarianism (plus mean score)

  1. Guarantee that for the next five years spending on the NHS in Scotland will be increased by at least the same rate as spending on health in England - 8.3
  2. Allow all students from Scotland to attend Scottish universities for free - 8.1
  3. Subsidise the cost of developing new sources of energy that are less harmful to the environment - 7.7
  4. Give schools with high numbers of children from poorer backgrounds more money to spend than other schools - 6.7
  5. Give first time home buyers who have saved £3,000 an extra £3,000 towards their deposit - 6.5
  6. Ban all drilling for shale gas, known as fracking, in Scotland - 6.2
  7. Reduce the tax on aeroplane tickets in Scotland - 6.1
  8. Ban farmers in Scotland from growing genetically modified foods - 5.7
  9. Hold another referendum on Scottish independence if Britain votes to leave the European Union - 5.6
  10. Introduce charges for prescriptions for those of working age in order to raise money for the NHS - 5.3
  11. Scrap the ban on people at football matches singing songs that some people find offensive - 4.9

All figures are mean scores based on answers provided between one and 10. One means the policy should never be put in place, and 10 means that it is very important and should be put in place quickly.

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