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by Staff reporter
10 October 2022
SNP de facto referendum win 'looks like a tall order', John Curtice says

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon aims to build support for independence

SNP de facto referendum win 'looks like a tall order', John Curtice says

Poll results reveal "a realignment of the unionist vote" in Scotland — but the SNP needs a "significant" rise in support for independence, Sir John Curtice says.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will use the next general election as a "de facto" referendum if the Supreme Court rules that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a fresh ballot on the constitution.

In a new blog post for What Scotland Thinks, Curtice says the switch from the Conservatives to Labour marks a realignment of party preference amongst no voters and Sturgeon "could not afford even a minimal increase in support for Labour among those who back independence".

Labour's support amongst those who voted no to independence in 2014 is up eight points to 44 per cent, Curtice said, and is also up four points to 16 per cent for those who voted yes.

Meanwhile, support for the SNP is "holding steady", but could lessen if Labour successfully targets those "whose commitment to independence is relatively weak".

Winning half of the vote in a general election used as a "de facto" vote on the constitution "looks like a tall order" for Nicola Sturgeon's party, Curtice said, with 75 per cent of Yes supporters ready to back the SNP at the next election, compared to 80 per cent of No voters planning to back one of the three main unionist parties. 

The claims are based on analysis of recent polling.

He stated: "For all the SNP's dominance of Scotland's representation at Westminster and the substantial pro-independence majority at Holyrood, support for independence is still no higher than 49 per cent. That is not enough to win a majority of the votes in either a referendum or an election. To have any chance of delivering independence, Ms Sturgeon needs to see that figure rise significantly."

Almost one in five of people who backed the Tories in 2019 would vote Labour at the next general election, according to an average of the latest polls, Curtice said.

Scotland In Union and similar groups have advocated for tactical voting against the SNP at recent elections.

However, the Curtice said that while this could help lift Labour to more than "half a dozen" seats in Westminster, there "would not be much of a Tory vote left to squeeze" if support levels remain consistent, with Conservative support down 11 points on 2019 and the party "facing the prospect of a repeat of the wipeout" seen in 1997.

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