Alex Salmond famously said the 2014 independence referendum was a “once in a generation” event. But just how long is such a time frame?
The former First Minister later clarified his remark was a personal opinion. And when the SNP was returned as the largest party at Holyrood in 2016, Nicola Sturgeon made clear she would consider a second referendum on indpendence if there was a “significant and material change” in circumstances – such as Brexit.
Last month the Scottish Parliament backed a second vote, with Sturgeon arguing Scots deserved a choice on whether to remain in the UK post-Brexit or an independent Scotland.
Yet the “once in a generation” line remains a favoured line of attack among Unionist parties opposed to another referendum.
Now a YouGov poll has revealed a majority of Scots consider the term to mean more than 20 years.
A sample of 1,047 adults north of the border found 39% think a generation is 20 or 25 years, 13% say 30 years and 10% say 10 years.
“The Scottish survey did reveal some significant differences between Scots on either side of the independence debate,” said Matthew Smith of YouGov in a blog post.
“While 20 and 25 years were still the most common answers given by both sides, Yes voters were much more likely than No voters to say that a generation lasts fewer than 20 years (28%, compared to 14% of No voters) – although only 2% of Yes voters consider a generation to have passed already.”
“No voters were likewise more likely to say that a generation lasts from 20 to 30 years (59%, compared to 46% of Yes voters).
“Looking at the responses cumulatively, the point at which the majority of Scots say that a generation has passed is 25 years (this is true of both Yes and No voters). If we follow the “once in a generation” logic, these results would dictate that the next Scottish independence referendum be held in 2039.”
When questioned about the “once in a generation” remark, Mr Salmond said last year: “My estimation was that political constitutional referendums are once in a generation and I was making the example of 1979 and 1997 - that is why I always put it in that context every single time I said that.
“But of course, things have changed. And why have they changed?”
“Well since the referendum there has been 56 SNP MPs elected out of 59, the Scottish government has been re-elected with more MSPs than all the Unionist parties put together in the Scottish parliament and specifically, of course, on a manifesto promise.”