Holyrood 2016: Independence ‘thwarts opposition parties’ hopes

Scottish party leaders line up before the BBC's leaders debate. Picture: PA

Scottish party leaders line up before the BBC's leaders debate. Picture: PA

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The independence question still divides Scotland and makes it “impossible” for opposition parties to ­challenge the SNP, a leading academic has said.

Issues like Holyrood’s new tax powers have been “trumped” by the constitution two years on from the ­referendum, says Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University.

Almost all Yes voters back the SNP, along with about 15 per cent of No voters, resulting in the SNP enjoying support of about 50 per cent throughout the current election.

By contrast, the pro-union vote has been split between the other opposition parties, including the pro-independence Greens.

“The truth is that the big ­division in Scottish electoral politics is the constitutional question,” Professor Curtice told BBC Scotland’s Politics Show yesterday.

In the 2011 election about a third of the SNP’s support came from voters who didn’t back independence, but still believed the party was the best choice to govern at Holyrood.

“The truth is those days are over,” Professor Curtice added.

“The foundation of the SNP’s lead in the opinion polls is that pretty much everybody who wants independence – and those people are many more than five years ago – are determined to repeat their vote for independence by voting for the SNP and that pretty much makes it impossible for any other political party to make much political progress.”

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