Claiming there is a mandate for indyref2 is a 'highly dubious exercise', says Sir John Curtice

Claiming there is a mandate from the Scottish people for a second independence referendum is a "highly dubious exercise", according to top pollster Professor Sir John Curtice.

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 4:47 pm
Updated Saturday, 18th January 2020, 4:48 pm

Professor Curtice, who teaches at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, said the election result was an inadequate way of judging support for a second poll.

Instead, the professor said, two polls done during the election campaign were a better way of quantifying public feeling towards the policy.

In a blog on his website What Scotland Thinks, Professor Curtice said using the number of seats to claim a mandate does not take into account the effect of the first past the post system, and how it calculates seats from votes.

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Professor Curtice concluded that the fate of another vote hinges on the public reaction to Brexit.

• READ MORE: Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for IndyRef2, says top QCNeither, the blog said, should the SNP claim a mandate based on share of the vote at the December election because voters may not have agreed with the SNP stance on the referendum, but still voted for them regardless.

The SNP won 47 seats in the December vote, an increase of 12 from their previous tally, leading to senior figures in the party claiming it is time for a second independence referendum.

A week later, the First Minister formally asked for the powers to hold a referendum from the Prime Minister, something he rejected this week.

However, Professor Curtice claims in his blog that two polls conducted during the election campaign present a better picture of attitudes towards another referendum than the general election.

• READ MORE: FMQs: Referendum snub makes Scottish independence ‘more certain’, says Nicola SturgeonHe said: "One of these polls came from Ipsos MORI, the other from Panelbase. The former asked people whether they supported or opposed holding another independence referendum within the next year.

"While 42 per cent said that they supported the idea, as many as 50 per cent indicated that they were opposed.

"Meanwhile, Panelbase reported that only 38 per cent backed the idea of holding a referendum before the next Scottish Parliament election, while as many as 51 per cent were opposed.

"On the basis of this evidence it is difficult to argue that there is a clear majority support for holding a referendum on the timescale proposed by the Scottish Government."

Professor Curtice concluded that the fate of another vote hinges on the public reaction to Brexit, which could push more people into support for another vote - as was evident in the wake of the 2016 vote.

He added: "Does it result in a further swing in favour of independence beyond that already in evidence last year such that the polls start to register majority support for the idea on a regular basis?

"If so, it can be anticipated that a majority for holding another ballot is likely to emerge too.

"Or does the UK government persuade people north of the border (Brexit) is going to work out to the country's advantage, in which case maybe the increased support for independence that was in evidence last year could melt away - and with it support for another ballot.

"Neither side in the debate can be sure of what the answers to these crucial questions will be."