Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Support 'lowest since devolution'

Alex Salmond
Image caption Alex Salmond's government is staging an independence referendum in 2014

Support for Scottish independence is at its lowest level since the creation of the Holyrood parliament in 1999, a survey has suggested.

A total of 23% of people who took part in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey said they favoured independence.

And, of the 1,229 people questioned between July and November last year, there was also support for a big increase in Holyrood powers.

The Scottish government is planning an independence referendum in autumn 2014.

The UK ministers said there were a lack of convincing arguments for Scotland leaving the UK, but the official campaign for independence, Yes Scotland, said the debate had moved on significantly since the survey was carried out.

The survey results claimed:

  • 23% of people think, "Scotland should become independent, separate from the rest of the UK".
  • 67% said the Scottish Parliament should either make all decisions for Scotland (35%), or it should make all decisions apart from defence and foreign affairs (32%).
  • There continues to be a big difference between the proportion of Scots who would like the Scottish government to have most influence over how Scotland is run (63%) and the proportion who believe it actually does (34%).

Rachel Ormston, director of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, said: "The 'yes' campaign still needs to convince a much wider section of the public that independence will bring real benefits, especially for Scotland's economy.

"But, while independence does not appear to be the favoured option of most Scots at present, unionists need to recognise there is a substantial gap between the public's perceptions of Holyrood's current powers and their preference for it to be responsible for most of Scotland's domestic affairs."

Prof John Curtice, of the Scottish Centre for Social Research, which produces the attitudes survey, said the last 12 months had seen the independence debate top the Scottish political agenda.

But he argued: "The proponents of independence have apparently struggled to capitalise on the resulting opportunity to persuade Scots of the merits of their case. Instead more voters appear to have become concerned about the prospect of leaving the UK."

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said a strong, positive case was being made to keep Scotland in the UK, adding: "The fact support for separation has fallen to 23% and is at an all-time low, shows people simply do not believe there are convincing arguments to leave the UK."

He added: "There will be no complacency from us and we will continue to make the positive arguments for Scotland staying part of the UK family."

The referendum will ask voters a single question on whether they want independence.

Yes Scotland boss Blair Jenkins said much of the field work for the survey was done when the possibility of a second question on more powers for Holyrood, or "devo-max", as an alternative to independence, was "still a possibility".

He also argued that, since then, Westminster welfare reforms had made one million Scots families worse off, while the UK government was "threatening" to take the country out of Europe.

Mr Jenkins added: "A 'Yes' vote is the way for the Scottish people to get the control over the future that they want.

"But we in no way minimise the hard work that we must do to take our independence campaign successfully across the referendum finishing line next year.

"We have to persuade those who believed that devo-max was their preferred choice, not to mention the one in four undecided voters still out there."

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