Women are shifting towards Scottish independence because they are attracted to Nicola Sturgeon’s “style of government” and key polices on childcare and gender-balance across civic Scotland, research indicates.
The current First Minister’s approach is making a “huge difference” compared with the more combative style of her predecessor, Alex Salmond, according to analysis being conducted by the Women for Independence (WFI) group.
Women were decisive in delivering a No vote in 2014, post-referendum polling indicated, with 57 per cent voting No, while 53 per cent of men voted Yes.
WFI has been carrying out ongoing work into voting intentions among women, starting before the 2014 vote, then following the Brexit referendum among 2014 No voters, as well as gauging where women who voted No stand now.
WFI national co-ordinator Margaret Young said many women felt disengaged by nationalists in 2014.
“Even if they agreed with what they were saying, they didn’t necessarily feel that it related to them,” she said, noting that a lot of the people delivering the independence message were men.
Under the present First Minister that impression had changed. “There’s a lot of trust in Nicola Sturgeon, there’s a lot of trust in the kind of government she’s got,” said Young. “There’s a lot of polices in there that are directly affecting women’s lives or have the potential to do that.”
Plans to double the level of childcare, the domestic abuse bill, gender balance on boards made women feel that their “experiences matter and are valued”.
“That’s maybe where we’re seeing that difference with Nicola Sturgeon over, say Alex Salmond. It’s not because he couldn’t bring certain things to the campaign, I think it’s people hears saying things but also backing them up with actions.”
Many Scots women who voted No in 2014 were remain voters in 2016 and the ensuing turmoil has hardened attitudes, the WFI work indicates.
“Brexit has been a huge game-changer” Ms Young added.
The “trust and credibility” which Westminster once enjoyed has withered.
“Her style of Government and the types of policies that she’s promoting are making a huge difference to the number of women that we hear from, they’re amongst the reasons why they’re supporting independence,” said Young.
She added that after Brexit, a lack of respect for Westminster politics is seen as a “huge reason” for the shift towards Yes.