John Curtice: Indyref2 strategy ‘based on false presumption’

John Curtice, Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University Picture: Robert Perry
John Curtice, Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University Picture: Robert Perry
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The country’s top polling expert, Sir John Curtice, has said that analysis appears to show that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made a political miscalculation on Brexit.

Professor Curtice, the UK’s foremost psephologist, said that Ms Sturgeon’s case for pursuing a second independence referendum was based ‘on a false presumption’.

Writing for the academic EU research body ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’, the Strathclyde University professor said that the SNP had erred by conflating the desire to remain in the EU with support for independence, which has remained stubbornly around the level of the first referendum of 2014.

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A year ago today, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that she would seek the power to hold another referendum on independence.

Prof Curtice, a leading authority on polls and political analysis, looked at the SNP’s reversal in fortunes among Leave voters post-Brexit have occurred as a result of the push for another constitutional vote.

He wrote: “ From (Ms Sturgeon’s) perspective nothing could more clearly demonstrate the validity of the nationalist argument that Scotland’s ‘democratic wishes’ are always at risk of being overturned for as long as it remains part of the UK.

“However, this perspective was based on what has proven to be a false presumption – that support for remaining in the EU would become synonymous with support for independence and vice-versa.

“In practice this was far from being the case in June 2016 and it is still not the case nearly two years later. It is this that helps explain the political difficulties that have beset the SNP in the wake of the EU referendum.

Citing the party’s losses at the snap general election last year, Prof Curtice added: “In part, at least, that reverse was occasioned by the fact that, rather than creating a bandwagon in favour of independence, Brexit served to expose a fissure in the nationalist movement that Nicola Sturgeon has struggled to straddle.

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“Brexit has, perhaps, turned out to be more of a problem for the First Minister than an opportunity.

Reacting to the poll, Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said: “The ink had barely dried on the ballot papers in June 2016 when Nicola Sturgeon announced she would use the Brexit vote to fight again for separation.

“In doing so, she ignored the one million people north of the border who voted to depart the European Union, many of whom were SNP supporters.

That mass alienation resulted in a General Election humiliation a year later, where places like Banff and Buchan – whose communities have been blighted for years by EU diktats like the Common Fisheries Policy – elected Scottish Conservative MPs.

And now Nicola Sturgeon’s government is embarking on rushed legislation which is likely to land the SNP in the Supreme Court for the third time in two years – previous attempts to introduce state guardians for every child in Scotland, and the pursuit of alcohol minimum pricing, both ended up in court.”

SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon said: “A recent Survation poll showed the SNP with a 17-point lead after more than a decade in office – an extraordinary endorsement from the people of Scotland whose interests we will continue to work hard to protect at both Holyrood and Westminster.

“The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in Europe and yet we now face being dragged out of the world’s largest single market – which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone – by a Tory government we did not vote for and which now thinks it can do what it wants to Scotland and get away with it.

“An extreme Tory Brexit, which will see us dragged out of the single market and customs union, threatens to do huge damage to jobs, investment and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK – but Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Tory colleagues are doing nothing to try and prevent that disastrous outcome.”