James Forsyth James Forsyth

Is Sturgeon losing support for Scottish independence?

[Getty Images]

Every politician likes to say that they don’t pay attention to opinion polls. In my experience, this is almost universally untrue. Those who sail in an ocean of public opinion want to know which way the wind is blowing. The most recent polls show the wind is in the Tories’ sails at the moment: the YouGov post-Budget survey indicated a 13-point Tory lead. But in Scotland for the past year, polls have consistently shown majority support for independence. That’s now changing.

Nicola Sturgeon can’t claim she doesn’t pay attention to the polls; she has too often commented on ones showing independence ahead. After roughly 20 polls in a row put independence in the lead, the Nationalists started to claim that independence was the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people.

The Nationalists want to try to create a sense of inevitability about Scottish independence. They would like a second referendum to feel like a confirmatory vote rather than a national contest, which is why they used to talk about not holding a vote until support for independence polled at 60 per cent. But in the absence of that, 20-odd polls showing independence at 50 per cent or more seemed enough. That sense has been shaken by these recent results, which at the very least have disrupted the Nationalists’ narrative and boosted Unionist morale. ‘There’s no settled will of the Scottish people,’ one Unionist tells me. ‘It is fluid and fractious.’

‘Blood-coloured carpets would be practical.’

Ahead of the Holyrood elections in May, it is important to keep this shift in the polls in perspective. As one figure involved in the government’s effort to save the Union concedes, the results come after Sturgeon ‘couldn’t have had worst press, we couldn’t have had a better story’, referring to the Alex Salmond inquiry and the vaccine rollout.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in