Exclusive:SNP dealt blow as poll shows majority believe no progress made on independence case since referendum

A majority of Scots believe the case for independence has not strengthened since the 2014 referendum, a new poll has revealed.

The SNP’s independence strategy has been dealt a further blow after a stark poll revealed almost three fifths of Scots think the case for separation has not strengthened since the 2014 referendum.

Since the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood does not have the authority to hold its own referendum 18 months ago, the Scottish Government has focused on building the renewed case for independence instead of dwelling on the route to ending the Union.

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SNP leader John Swinney (Photo by John Devlin/National World)SNP leader John Swinney (Photo by John Devlin/National World)
SNP leader John Swinney (Photo by John Devlin/National World)

But a poll by Savanta has found that 59 per cent of Scots believe the case for independence is weaker now than it was in 2014 or that there has been no progress in strengthening it since the referendum, won by the No campaign.

SNP leader John Swinney has vowed that independence will be “page one, line one” of his party’s manifesto to be published in the coming weeks ahead of the general election. But the new poll indicates that a lack of progress has been made on convincing Scots of the case for independence over the last decade.

Savanta interviewed 1,067 Scots between May 24-28 and found 39 per cent believe the case for independence is weaker now than it was in 2014, while 20 per cent think it is no stronger or weaker now than 10 years ago. 35 per cent of Scots believe the independence case is now stronger.

Worryingly for Mr Swinney, the poll shows that more than one fifth who voted SNP at the 2021 Holyrood election now believe the case for independence is weaker now than it was back in 2014.

Scottish independence supporters marching in Glasgow (photo by John Devlin/National World)Scottish independence supporters marching in Glasgow (photo by John Devlin/National World)
Scottish independence supporters marching in Glasgow (photo by John Devlin/National World)

The poll separately showed the level of support for independence remained split, with 52 per cent in favour of remaining in the UK and 48 per cent backing separation, excluding don't knows.

Mr Swinney has called on people to “unite to win the powers of independence” at the general election on July 4, insisting it will “strengthen our economy, tackle the cost of living and bring about a fairer country”.

Mr Swinney has confirmed his party’s independence strategy remains being based on winning a majority of Scottish seats at the forthcoming general election.

The First Minister has stressed that securing a majority would be a mandate for another referendum on independence and he would "proceed with urgency" if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats. But polls suggest Labour is on course to become the biggest party in Scotland at the general election.

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Meghan Gallacher, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives. (Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World)Meghan Gallacher, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives. (Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World)
Meghan Gallacher, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives. (Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World)

Since becoming leader of the SNP, Mr Swinney has said he will concentrate his efforts on "winning the arguments and building support" for independence instead of obsessing over a route to separation.

He added: “Independence is going to be front and centre of our mission - it always has been - and the work will continue."

The Scottish Government has published 13 papers in its building a better Scotland series - intended to set out the renewed case for independence. But Mr Swinney, in one of his first acts as FM, axed the post of independence minister in a bid to unite Holyrood.

Since the 2014 referendum, the SNP has pointed to Brexit and a chaotic Westminster government under the Conservatives as justification for pushing the case for independence.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Alba party general secretary, Chris McEleny, said: “If you had said on September 19, 2014 that within a matter of years Scotland would be dragged out of the EU against its will, that David Cameron’s Windrush scandal home secretary would end up in Number 10, Boris Johnson would be prime minister and an unknown Tory called Liz Truss would have a brief stint in which she would tank the economy, even the dogs in the street would have said that Scotland would surely be independent under those scenarios.

“Instead, the Nicola Sturgeon government threw away every single incremental gain that they were handed by the independence movement and Alex Salmond.”

He added: “First they spent years fixated on overturning the Brexit vote instead of realising that England’s difficulty was Scotland’s opportunity, and then they decided to get lost in the highways and byways of gender self identification when they should’ve been focused on self-determination.

“The independence movement has ran out of patience and that is why the Alba party is ensuring they have a new party to vote for instead of going back to the yoke of Labour-Tory mediocrity.”

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Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said: ““The question of whether the case for independence is stronger or weaker now than in 2014 unsurprisingly divides Scottish opinion. But time is on the side of the pro-independence camp, as half of younger people think the case is stronger, compared to one in four over 55s.

“Interestingly, despite no overall movement in how people say they would vote, three in ten of those who they’d vote Yes now think the case for independence is either weaker or the same as before. The onus continues to be on Scottish independence campaigners to make sure they’re converting those supportive of their cause.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said that “for the SNP it is always party before country - whether it is backing their pals or pushing for independence”.

She added: “Voters are sick and tired of their independence obsession and want them to focus on their real priorities.

"In key seats up and down Scotland, voters can send a message to John Swinney and the SNP and help end their independence obsession for good, by voting Scottish Conservative."

The poll also reveals that only 25 per cent of Scots believe independence is in their top five priorities at the general election, compared with 66 per cent who believe the economy is important, 71 per cent who focus on inflation and the cost-of-living crisis and 77 who said the NHS was priority. Independence is also seen as less important than immigration, housing, climate change and education.

But speaking yesterday, Mr Swinney insisted that in the general election “the only way to protect Scotland from Westminster folly is for decisions about Scotland to be made in Scotland – with independence”.

The SNP was contacted for comment.

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