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04 February 2020
Brexit is fuelling a surge in support for Scottish independence, says John Curtice


Brexit is fuelling a surge in support for Scottish independence, says John Curtice

Brexit is fuelling a surge in support for Scottish independence, according to Professor Sir John Curtice.

Curtice said remainers who had previously backed the Union are now flocking to support independence, while Boris Johnson's continued refusal to let the Scottish Government have another referendum could end up backfiring.

Professor Curtice said that support for the Union had remained largely unchanged in the wake of the EU referendum in 2016, but that was now changing, with three opinion polls in recent days suggesting there is now a majority in favour of independence north of the border.

"After the 2016 referendum some people who voted No and Remain did swich to Yes, but equally there were also people who voted Yes and Leave who switched to No," he said.

"In 2019, support is higher and where does the increase come? It comes wholly and entirely amongst those who voted Remain.

"So it was already very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the pursuit of Brexit was indeed at the margin undermining support for the Union. But given that we're starting 55/45, at the margin is potentially crucial.

"And then the story of the three polls that have come out either side of the weekend, now average support [for independence] is 51 per cent. The YouGov poll and the Survation poll that came out yesterday again confirm that the increase in support is among Remain voters.

"So the message has to be towards Brexit-inclined Unionists is 'you might like it to be true that the UK should leave whole and entire but the world is not shaped how you would like it to be and that in practice, at the moment at least, the pursuit of Brexit is costing you support in Scotland'."

However, the Strathclyde University lecturer warned the SNP that Scots voters remained unconvinced about key aspects of their case for independence.

He said: "It's still very clear that the nationalist movement still have to convince people about the economics of independence, its also clear that the SNP's position on currency is still way, way all over the place so far as the public is concerned.

"And there is of course that really awkward question that will arise if Scotland tries to pursue independence with a view to rejoining the European Union, which is what would happen to the border between Gretna and Berwick."

On the Prime Minister's refusal to allow so-called "indyref2", Professor Curtice said: "It is not 100 per cent that the UK simply saying 'no' will stop it happening.

"It seems pretty clear that the SNP recognise that it's not going to happen this year, but it's equally that they will continue to press the issue and these kind of opinion poll numbers will just encourage them to do so."

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