Polling by Progressive Polling for the Daily Record has shown a worrying disconnect between the Scottish Government and voters north of the border.
As issues around independence and in particular the position of an independent Scotland within the EU dominate the political landscape, the polling has found that independence is only the 8th most important issue for Scots, whilst issues around Europe and the EU languish 11th in the pecking order.
Given the option of picking which five out of a number of issues were the most important to them, 72% of respondents made the cost of living the most important, an endorsement of Ed Miliband’s decision to focus his 2015 General Election campaign on this issue.
In second place were the 67% who made health the most important issue, followed by 56% who said issues around jobs; 38% made education most important and 35% taxes.
Scottish independence came 8th, with 25% saying it was an important issue whilst just 14% said Europe.
Declaring the results to be a ‘reality check’ for politicians north of the border who have made independence an ‘obsession’, professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University told the Daily Record:
“Independence seems to be all that Scotland’s politicians are capable of talking about.
“But this obsession is not shared by voters. Their minds are not idly contemplating some prospect of a better – or weaker – Scotland.
“They live in a present everyday reality of declining living standards, high unemployment, and cutbacks in public services. For them – and especially women – these are the issues that matter.
“Even in sunnier times, constitutional issues such as independence rarely grab the attention of the ordinary voter.
“For the most part, only political anoraks are interested in how government decisions are made. Most people are simply concerned about what decisions are made.
“Against that backdrop, it is perhaps surprising that as many as a quarter of Scots do say that independence is one of the issues that most matters to them.
“The poll is a reality check for politicians. Neither side are likely to cut much ice unless they can show how independence, or the Union, will deliver a stronger economy and better services – preferably in the not too distant future.”
Warning of the ‘stark message’ that the findings should send to Holyrood, the Daily Record’s editorial concluded:
“Polls can go up as well as down and it would be surprising if either Yes Scotland or Better Together did not have good and bad days over the next 18 months.
“But the basic issues stay the same and with a year and a half to go, the trend is not running towards independence.
“Armed with that knowledge, politicians in Holyrood and Westminster would do well to obsess less about the constitution and get on with tackling big problems.”
“In today’s narrow focus on the constitutional question and nothing else, Scots are suffering and being badly served.
“Our poll sends out a stark message and a big challenge to politicians and the Scottish media commentators who fixate on one issue.
“It is time to reconnect with voters. It is time to start talking in their language and taking up their priorities. To do otherwise is to risk becoming irrelevant.”