Nicola Sturgeon today announced she would seek a second Indyref. Some of the comments on this have suggested that there is widescale opposition to this from the Scottish public. This polling evidence is far less clear-cut. A variety of polls have asked a variety of questions about when or if there should be another referendum on Scottish independence. Some have given multiple options on whether there should be should be a second referendum, others have asked if there should be a referendum in a specifc timeframe, such as the next year, before the UK leaves the EU or (subtly but importantly different) before negotiations over Brexit are concluded.

As far as I can recall, there have been four polls so far this year asking about a second referendum:

  • A Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times in January asked when there should be a second referendum, giving options of during the Brexit negotiations (27%), after the negotiations (23%) or not in the next few years (51%). (tabs).
  • A Panelbase poll for Wings Over Scotland in February asked a very similar question, but with slightly different options. They split “not in the next few years” into not in the next twenty years and never, but found a similar total (25% and 24%). Rather that splitting the options for a more immediate referendum by whether negotiations were complete, they split it by whether Britain had actually left yet. 32% wanted a referendum before the UK leaves the EU, 19% a referendum after the UK leaves the EU. (tabs)
  • A BMG poll for the Herald at the end of January asked about a referendum “prior to Brexit negotiations being concluded between the UK and EU”. 38% of respondents said yes, 48% no. (tabs).
  • BMG repeated the question at the end of February and found virtually no change – 39% said yes, 49% said no (on what appears to be the same poll they asked an agree/disagree statement about whether people agreed with the statement “A referendum on Scottish independence should not be triggered until the UK & EU have completed their Brexit negotiations” – 51% agreed with this, 25% disagreed. I am generally wary about agree/disagree statements, which tend to produce answers skewed in the direction of the statement. I would put a lot more weight on the neutally worded version of the question) (tabs)

Bringing all these together, I can only assume those saying Scotland is opposed to a second referendum are looking at the BMG polls. These do indeed show broad public opposition to a second referendum, but both asked specifically about a referendum before Brexit negotiations were concluded. If you look at the two Panelbase polls, they showed only minority support for a second referendum during negotiations/before Britain leaves, but that a further group of Scots would support a referendum after the conclusion of negotiations/after Britain leaves.

Look at the Panelbase polls asking a broad question about a second referendum, rather than those asking about a specific timeframe, and the split looks pretty even. About half of Scottish adults want a referendum in the next few years, either before or after Brexit; about half of Scottish adults don’t want a referendum in the next few years.

339 Responses to “Does Scotland want a second referendum?”

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  1. So A50 has got through parliament and NS wants another IndyRef. No surprises there.

    What is irritating me tonight is that it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that the democratic principle of referenda of this nature is flawed; at least to the extent to which we choose to hold such votes in the context that it is at the beginning of a process of negotiation and agreement.

    In both the Brexit vote and IndyRef 1 (I know it wasn’t the first, but you know what I mean), voters were given a choice between maintaining a status quo that most considered unsatisfactory and entering a process of negotiating an agreement, the outcome of which, with all due respect to everyones’ opinions on the subject, is unknown as to whether it will or will not be more or less favourable than the status quo. “Gamble” or “Collect”, which is what such referenda boil down to, will never be positioned as such.

    I don’t know the answer. A referendum at the end of the negotiations would make such negotiations impossible as it would not be in the interests of the party that wants to prevent departure from happening to offer even a half reasonable arrangement.

    Maybe such thorns as these should be arbitrated upon by an independent third party either before or after such a vote. (can anyone spot the indirect reference to a G&S operetta in this Sentence?)

  2. @Tancred
    ‘ The conservatives would be certain to win every general election without Scotland.’

    Not so. Labour would have won without Scotland in 1945 – 1966 – October 1974 – 1997 – 2001 – and 2005.

  3. Run yourselves or run by the English Home Counties?

    I’m amazed there is any need for a referendum on such an obvious issue. What is there to dither over?

  4. @David in France,

    I’m not sure where you hailed from before we bid you bon voyage, but the English Home Counties are really rather lovely.

    They’re not Mordor, you know!

  5. Ok, dunno if anyone else is worried about this, but in the Times the headline is… “I won’t let country fall off Brexit cliff edge, insists Davis”

    Now what alarms about this, is that he’s admitting there really is a cliff edge. And our politicians do not always seem that adept at dodging these cliff edges. See financial crisis for details, Omnishambles etc.

    I would have much greater confidence in the abilities of our elected representatives to avoid this cliff edge, if indeed there were no cliff edge.

    Now we know there really is a cliff edge, I’m going to have to use the storage unit for survival kit and stuff…

  6. @Tancred

    ‘The conservatives would be certain to win every general election without Scotland.’


    Not if Labour shift ground towards the Tories. Tories have done the same in the past, moving towards Labour postwar, that’s how Mac,Ilan et al got elected, outdoing Labour on house building…

  7. Carfrew

    I’d have more faith if he could set out measures for avoiding walking of the cliff before setting out on his merry waltz.

    Time buy buy popcorn and watch from a distance.

    I’m sure part of me would be greatly amused if he does blindly totter off over the edge, just to witness the spectacular fallout.

  8. @Carfrew ” “I won’t let country fall off Brexit cliff edge, insists Davis”” and he is on safe ground saying that if there really is no cliff edge, and feels safe saying it if he believes there is no cliff edge. I don’t see that DD is admitting there is a cliff edge by promising to avoid something he believes not to be a possibility.

  9. Neil A

    “the English Home Counties are really rather lovely.”

    They are. So is much of China.

    If you are considering “loveliness” as your basis for wanting to be ruled by the political beliefs of those living in a particular lovely area, then I wish you well

  10. For what previous GEs would have looked like without Scotland, I blogged about this years ago:

    Historically, it hasn’t really made much difference.

  11. CMJ

    I suspect it might actually help Labour by shocking them into the actions they need to take to win an election. Right now they seem to be in the mode of assuming that sooner or later “their people” will start voting for them again.

    Drop them into the icy water and see if they sink or swim.

  12. @Dave

    Nah, he’s making plans in case there’s no deal agreed, that’s the cliff edge apparently…

    To cite Davis himself…

    “The country would be ready if the negotiations “go wrong” and preparations were being made to prevent the country falling off “a cliff edge”, he said.

    “We have been planning for the contingency, all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes,” he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show. “It’s not just my team, it’s the whole of Whitehall; it’s every single department. But understand — it’s the contingency plan. The aim is to get a good outcome.””

  13. @Alan

    Dunno, I’ve kinda had my fill of spectacular fallouts I guess. I quite like unspectacular progress in comparison… It’s the British way, gradualism etc..

  14. Carfrew

    I have a mental image of Brexit Boy dancing off the edge of the cliff without realising he has taken several steps over the edge before making a futile panicked effort to get back to Terra Firma before plummeting into a cloud of dust.

    Resisting all efforts by parliament to put up a guardrail (or even a sign, “Beware of the cliff”) would make it all the more comical.

  15. @Alan

    In the longer term, people will get fed up of the Government.

    Theresa May’s intray looks very unattractive – Brexit negotiations, Scottish independence, an NHS and Social Care systems falling apart, public services stretched……

    There are far more opportunities for things to go wrong than opportunities for good wins.

    I think Labour are heading to a massive shock in 2020 (not one they will enjoy), but it might be be good for them. They could rebuild just when things are really sticky for a 2020 Government/ What will emerge I don’t know, but the offering can’t surely be as unattractive to the general voter that what they are being offered now (based on polling evidence), and the Governments honeymoon will be long gone, with all the difficult issues rising fast.

  16. CMJ

    “For what previous GEs would have looked like without Scotland, I blogged about this years ago:”

    Yes. But the intransigence of peoples’ belief systems frequently make them immune to irrelevancies like “facts”.

    Misinformation, regularly repeated, is part of the normal behaviour of political parties.

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense, and the ability to count, can see that it has to be a remarkably close election in England, for the results from those in other polities to affect who becomes the government of the UK.

    There are perfectly good reasons for Brits in Scotland to oppose indy – but the idea that we should stay in the Union in order to occasionally give England a non-Tory government, must be one of the stupidest ones.

  17. @Carfrew
    “Nah, he’s making plans in case there’s no deal agreed, that’s the cliff edge apparently…”
    My point is that a cliff edge implies a long drop, whereas I think DD thinks the difference between WTO and a poor deal is more like a shallow step you might trip over if you ignored its presence.

  18. CMJ

    “Theresa May’s intray looks very unattractive – Brexit negotiations, Scottish independence, an NHS and Social Care systems falling apart, public services stretched……”

    I’d suggest putting the NI Border high on that list – as the EU seems to intend to do.

    It’s always seemed likely that, unless there is violence involved, E&W cares little about the issue – although the land border with Scotland exercises huge English concern.

    The prospect of ScotRef makes it much harder for the UK Government to marginalise the NI Border issue, Whatever is decided in Ireland will become the template for the Scottish/English border, if Scotland votes Yes.

    So does May push for a hard border in Ireland (and risk losing NI, but hoping to scare Scots into a No vote) : or work to achieve a soft border in Ireland (and hope to keep NI in the Union, but sacrifice that scare story in the ScotRef?)

  19. @Dave

    The thing is, it’s likely Davis thinks it’s a cliff edge rather than a shallow step, on account of the fact he said ‘cliff edge’, rather than shallow step.

    And there wouldn’t be much point reassuring people about making contingency plans for a shallow step, because there’s not much need to be worried about a shallow step, you see. On account of it being shallow and stuff…

  20. Carfrew

    Exactly, It’s like a pilot getting into the plane with a parachute for himself and assuring all of the passengers that it’s “perfectly safe, with no chance of anything going wrong”

  21. Oldnat

    While it might be a bit silly to beg Scots to stay in the UK to prevent a Tory government every 50 years, reasoning along the same lines could persuade an English left winger to support the union, as opposed to not being concerned about independence.

    In particular it might be argued that part of Labour’s collapse is due to the loss of decent intellectual underpinnings, which had such significant Scottish input since the foundation of the party. Scottish socialism has a particular flavour and made the party stronger.

    Obviously that is now lost, and maybe for good. However with independence that influence is guaranteed never to return.

  22. “Nicola Sturgeon’s economic case for independence suffered a major blow after one of Britain’s most respected economists warned taxes would have to increase or spending cut by more than £1,000 per person.

    Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, also warned that a separate Scotland is likely to face political pressure to adopt the euro as the price of EU membership.

    Despite the First Minister’s claims otherwise, he also warned that Scotland faces trade barriers with England, by far its most important market, if it is inside the EU single market and the rest of the UK is outside.”

  23. @ALAN

    “Exactly, It’s like a pilot getting into the plane with a parachute for himself and assuring all of the passengers that it’s “perfectly safe, with no chance of anything going wrong””


    You couldn’t explain this to Dave could you? I don’t think he’s quite got the hang of the cliff thing yet…

  24. @CMJ,

    I couldn’t agree more. 2020 is likely to be a semi landslide for May, but the in tray looks treacherous and Govts generally eventually get unpopular as people want a change. It’s in no way all over for Labour, but you would have to say a significant left of centre platform to a non Scotland UK looks suicidal, so it’s back to the middle ground to win, probably. International Rescue inbound I reckon.

  25. Carfrew

    “Phew, that was close”

  26. Pemby

    “Scottish socialism has a particular flavour and made the party stronger.”

    Scottish socialism still exists (just not inside SLab) – and its flavour is pro-indy.

    “However with independence that influence is guaranteed never to return.”

    That’s a dreadful indictment of the parochialism of ELab! If ideas come from a different country, then they aren’t to be considered.

    If you are correct about that then ELab should be driven out of every international socialist grouping.

  27. @Richo

    On what platform becomes attractive from the middle of the next Parliament is unknown.

    By then we would have had 12+ years of a centre-right platform. If people feel their needs haven’t been delivered by centre-right policies after this time, they might be in the mood for something entirely different.

    I wouldn’t rule a return of the right-left pendulum back left, especially if a programme is offered by a fresh face.

  28. CMJ

    Possibly with a fresh party, a la Macron? If when the time comes for the pendulum to swing back, Labour are still dallying with their curious brand of politics, maybe another party can take over the mantle of sometimes running the country?

    I think Labour assuming “We can stay all the way over here and sooner or later the pendulum will reach us” would be a great mistake.

  29. Lords have passed the bill.

    Brexit is ready to launch it seems..

  30. Neil A

    Not all launches from London are successful!

  31. I wonder if any polling for the Sunday’s about Brexit and Independence will ask people to choose which they would rather see.

    I suppose the options are;

    1) No Brexit, No Independence.
    2) Brexit No Independence.
    3) No Brexit, Independence.
    4) Brexit, Independence.

    The preferred SNP option is clearly No 3, but what about most people in England, would they be willing to reverse Brexit to save the Union.


  32. The highly regarded commentator and author David Torrance said on TV today that NSturgeon DID NOT have a credible plan to keep Scotland in the single market and it was all just a stunt to make it seem as though she had tried.

  33. @Prof Howard

    SNP leader in “striving for Scottish independence” shocker?…

  34. @Peter

    I am not really sure of the value of such a poll as I am not sure how exactly a “we want Brexit but we’d forgo it to keep the Scots” majority would translate into any kind of political action.

    Is the SNP in a position to promise that it wouldn’t try and cut Scotland loose if the UK scraps Brexit?

  35. peter

    There is no trust between Scotland and the rest of the uk. Even if the rest of the uk reversed Brexit to save the Union what would stop a new referendum being called 5 years down the line. Where the governing party has independence in its name and its leader has dreamt of nothing else since she was 15 the safe money would be on the issue returning.

    I think the rest of the UK would like Scotland to stay part of the Union but will not live under the constant threat of referendum if it does not get its way.If scotland wants to be a very small EU state well good luck but temper tantrums will be of limited value in Frankfurt.

  36. My friend who has contacts on the ground in Blairgowrie says that there is a degree of disappointment in Scotland at the thought of another referendum in Scotland, and that there is an uptick in support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

  37. @Alan

    “Phew, that was close”


    Thanks for that, Alan. Especially enjoyed watching the rather extensive credits. A real blast from the past…

  38. S Thomas,
    “There is no trust between Scotland and the rest of the uk”

    Well of course not. We just broke yet another promise. Any Brexiteer should understand why Scotland might want to go. The irony is that all the arguments made for Brexit really do apply in the Scotland-Uk relationship when they did not in Uk-EU.

  39. Prof Howard

    “The highly regarded commentator and author David Torrance”

    I do love your sense of humour!

    I’m sure the arch Yoons regard him highly, but he isn’t exactly a neutral observer!

  40. “The irony is that all the arguments made for Brexit really do apply in the Scotland-Uk relationship when they did not in Uk-EU.”


    You mean Scotland have to leave us to curb immigration and straighten the bananas and stop the Germans trying to achieve what they failed to do in 1945 by peaceful means etc.?…

  41. Prof Howard

    You have mentioned your pal’s links with Blairgowrie before.

    Can I gently suggest that having an indirect contact with someone in Scotland gives you as much understanding of the political situation as I might glean about NI by chatting to the couple a few streets over, who have huge Rangers and Red Hand of Ulster flags flying in their garden.

  42. I feel that a second Scottish referendum would be much closer but the unionists would still squeeze a win – unless of course Brexit becomes a total disaster, which is still an unlikely scenario. It’s a huge gamble by Sturgeon, which could backfire massively.

  43. I think the referendum may turn on the statements of the EU leadership.

    If Scots are offered a clear indication that they can succeed to the UK’s membership, or move smoothly to EU or EFTA membership immediately on independence, then the Yes campaign will have the upper hand.

    If the EU leadership are consistent with previous statements, then this may not happen, but there will be a complicated game going on, with the approach to Indyref2 linked closely to the negotiations with the UK government.

    On balance I see no reason to expect a different result to last time, but last time was so close that of course anything is possible.

  44. Has there been any polling on NI leaving the UK and uniting with Ireland?

    Sinn Fein seemed to do quite well in the latest elections, and remain won the referendum, it would seem sensible for them to also have a referendum as they probably have more in common with Ireland now than England post Brexit?

  45. Ahh..I see they are also asking for one

    Didn’t really make the headlines though…wonder why?

  46. 31% for unification. 68% for the Union.

    The polling company (LucidTalk) got the NI EU ref result to within 1%, and every single party in the party Assembly election to within 1% too. So, excellent methodology.

    They have another border poll question being asked now too.

  47. Tancred

    “It’s a huge gamble by Sturgeon, which could backfire massively.”

    Indeed. If we lose again, then theoretically, the English Tories could abolish Holyrood, or so strip it of powers that it becomes the “parish council” that Brian Wilson mocked.

    Alternatively, the prospect of ScotRef could prevent them from adopting a Brexit strategy that sacrifices Scottish fishing interests, and stop them repatriating all the EU powers to Westminster.

    There are more aspects to the constitutional arrangements between Scotland and Westminster than just the indy question.


    I think a lot of Ulster Catholics support staying in the UK for economic reasons and access to the NHS. If Brexit is disaster that view may well change.

  49. @AdvisablyAnon

    Thanks for that, ok, looks quite remote then, I can’t see that changing unless we do the cliff edge thing and fall over and all the companies in NI start announcing they have to move jobs over the border to be able to remain in business.

    An entirely possible outcome still….

  50. What SF still want isn’t really here or there…. Unionist MLAs need to drop below 30 to no longer be able to veto via ‘petition of concern’ (they currently have 40 across their bloc), and James Brokenshire presumably won’t authorise a border poll without it being in response to both a Stormont mandate/authorisation and actual public demand for one.

    Unlike (re)creating a whole new country (aka Scotland), an NI border poll is at least bearing feasibility to occur on a ‘pre departure’ timetable, but there’s just no demand for it currently.

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