A fortnight today (18 September) will mark the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum – arguably the most important political event any of us in Scotland have experienced – giving pause for reflection on a year that has seen the referendum losers seem like winners, and vice versa.
Despite the relatively decisive margin last September (55 per cent voting ‘No’ to independence, with 45 per cent in favour), it is the SNP who have reaped the rewards; over 100,000 new members, 56 of the 59 MPs elected in Scotland at the general election and a likely historic consecutive overall majority at next May’s Scottish Parliament elections.
Our own poll from earlier this week confirmed the SNP’s dominance, not only in voting intentions for next year but also on all the key policy areas that will decide the election and on the personal ratings of Nicola Sturgeon, which far surpass those of her rival party leaders.
But where does that leave support for independence and the prospect of a second referendum? The watchword from the First Minister and the SNP since the referendum has been one of caution: if
there is to be another referendum it must be held at a time when supporters of independence think they have the best chance of winning. Losing a second referendum would, likely remove the issue from the agenda for the foreseeable future.
That is why our poll finding that 53 per cent would vote in favour of independence if another referendum were held now is a mixed blessing for the SNP and independence supporters.
On the one hand, those who urge caution and want to wait before pushing for a second referendum will want to see the findings of this survey backed up by a series of polls with healthy leads before being at all confident of winning an actual vote. And views may obviously change significantly if and when a second referendum is announced and campaigning is underway.
On the other hand, the poll indicates that backing for independence may well be rising, which is not that surprising given the surge in SNP support since last year’s vote. This, along with the presence of a Conservative UK government unpopular among Scots, may see the First Minister facing pressure to propose a second referendum sooner rather than later.
It is too early to say whether our poll represents a significant shift in mood in favour of independence and whether that support would be sustained if a second referendum were called.
But one thing is for sure; if you thought last year’s referendum would resolve the issue for good, think again.