Another blow for Sturgeon as Scots reject SNP Brexit stance

Another blow for Sturgeon as Scots reject SNP Brexit stance

by Murdo Fraser
article from Friday 12, January, 2018

PROFESSOR JOHN CURTICE must be the closest thing that Scotland has to a national treasure. The recent rash of elections and referendums has made him a fixture on our television screens, presenting polling research and analysing results. It is no surprise that he was the recipient of a well-deserved knighthood in the New Year honours list.

As important as the work that Sir John has done in analysing election outcomes is his leadership role at NatCen Social Research, which for years has been publishing detailed and extremely useful information on public opinion throughout the UK. The Social Attitudes Survey has, over a long period of time, been helpful in giving the lie to the claim that Scotland and England are very different countries politically. As this research has regularly shown, when it comes to views on issues such as tax, immigration, and welfare, people in Scotland think very much the same way as those in other parts of the United Kingdom, whatever Nationalists would want you to believe.

The latest contribution from NatCen Social Research was published just this week, and looks at attitudes towards Brexit in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Its findings are fascinating, and at the same time will be hugely unwelcome for the SNP leadership.

Ever since the EU Referendum vote, when Scotland voted by 62 per cent to 38 per cent for Remain, the Nationalists have argued that Scotland should have a “differentiated deal” with the EU, distinct from that which would apply to the rest of the UK. This was justified, the SNP claims, because the referendum result shows that Scottish attitudes towards the EU are markedly different. This article of faith on the part of the SNP is devastated by this new polling research.

What NatCen found was that 59 per cent of Scottish voters felt that EU migrants should be treated the same as non-EU, as against 25 per cent who were against. These results were not markedly different from those for Great Britain as a whole, where the figures were 64 per cent to 20 per.

When it came to the crucial question of Scotland having different rules on immigration and trade, the centrepiece of the SNP’s approach to Brexit, Scots were remarkably hostile. On immigration, 63% thought the rules should be the same as the rest of the UK, with only 24% stating that it should be easier for EU migrants to come to Scotland. Some 12% thought it should be harder for EU migrants to come here as opposed to the rest of the UK.

When it comes to trade, a striking 67% thought trade rules should be the same as the UK as a whole, with just 30% thinking trade for EU companies should be easier. So, by substantial margins, the voters of Scotland reject the SNP policy on Brexit. Perhaps even more striking, is the revelation that of those who voted Yes in the 2014 independence referendum, there is still a majority who think that both immigration and trade rules should be the same between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

In the case of immigration, 54 per cent of Yes voters think rules should be the same as against 36 per cent who think it should be easier for EU migrants to come to Scotland, whilst on trade 53 per cent think the rules should be the same, as opposed to 45 per cent who think it should be easier for EU companies to trade here. So even those who are supporters of independence, and therefore likely to be SNP voters, are by large margins hostile to the SNP Brexit stance.

The survey also asked a question on independence, where it was significant that there had been since the 2014 vote a 5 per cent swing against independence; yet more bad news for the SNP leadership.

What the result of this authoritative research tells us is that Nicola Sturgeon needs to think again on her Brexit strategy. Her stance on Brexit is massively unpopular, not just with the Scottish population as a whole, but with SNP supporters and Yes voters. And support for independence continues to decline.

The First Minister started the year talking, once more, about the prospect of a second independence referendum. This research will surely have killed off that prospect for the foreseeable future. We should all be grateful to the national treasure that is Professor Sir John Curtice for starting our New Year on such a happy note.

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