Scottish independence: Is Scotland now firmly on the path to becoming a separate state? – Ian Swanson

In the wake of the 2014 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon is said to have set consistent 60 per cent support for independence as the test for when it would be right to have a fresh vote.
Nicola Sturgeon's popularity has soared, according to latest polls (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)Nicola Sturgeon's popularity has soared, according to latest polls (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon's popularity has soared, according to latest polls (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

With polls then showing little movement from the referendum split of 45 per cent Yes and 55 per cent No, the First Minister's target seemed a tough one to achieve.

But now the figures are edging ever closer to it. An Ispos Mori poll last week found 58 per cent of those likely to vote in a second referendum were in favour of independence.

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It follows a series of other polls that have suggested over 50 per cent backing for Scotland going it alone. And SNP depute leader Keith Brown hailed the lpsos Mori result as a landmark poll which showed independence had now become “the settled will of the majority of people in Scotland”.

He went on: “Faced with the chaotic and incompetent government of Boris Johnson and a Westminster system which treats Scotland as an afterthought at best, more and more people are deciding that the best way forward for Scotland is as an equal, independent country.”

Reasons for Yes-camp caution

The poll also gave the SNP a huge lead over the other parties for next year’s Holyrood election, which pundits say is likely to see them returned with an overall majority and able to claim a mandate to hold a second referendum. Mr Johnson has repeatedly declared there will be no new referendum while he is Prime Minister, but opponents argue a clear election win for the Nationalists would make such a stance unsustainable.

So is Scotland now firmly on the path to an independent future? The signs certainly look encouraging for Yes supporters, but there are also reasons to be cautious.

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There is no doubt Nicola Sturgeon has outclassed Boris Johnson in the handling of the pandemic and her popularity has soared as a result – according to Ipsos Mori, 72 per cent of Scots are satisfied with the job she’s doing as First Minister while 76 per cent are dissatisfied with Mr Johnson.

And that stands her and her party in good stead. But when it comes to deciding Scoltand’s constitutional future, a whole range of other factors will be at play too.

A prosperous future?

Despair at the Prime Minister, approval for Ms Sturgeon’s approach on Covid and anger about the Brexit debacle may give way to questions about currency, pensions, the economy and whether Scotland will rejoin the European Union.

These were issues that proved contentious and troublesome for the Yes campaign last time and are still awaiting clear answers. People will be looking for reassurance on these and other matters before they cast their vote.

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And the steady increase in support for independence has happened during a period when there has been little debate on it. Once a referendum campaign begins the No side will throw everything it can at the SNP and its allies. Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues will have to persuade people that an independent Scotland could prosper in a world that will be notably different from the one of 2014.

The SNP needs to have answers – not.just to win votes in a referendum but to have a clear programme for Scotland’s future if independence comes.

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