The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?

Almost a half of all people in England would oppose Scotland gaining independence, according to a BBC/ComRes poll for last night's Newsnight, reports Ed Jacobs.

The alleged resentment felt by some in England towards a Scotland they perceive as having a better deal than them – with free prescriptions, free care for the elderly and free university tuition fees – has long been running sore since the birth of devolution. Yet despite this, a new BBC/ComRes poll for yesterday’s Newsnight and World at One shows almost 50 per cent of people in England oppose Scottish independence.

It found:

• Forty eight per cent oppose the idea of Scotland becoming independent, with 36% in support and 15% undecided;

• In the event of independence, 51% say it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference to England, 19% say it would make England better off and 21% say it would make England worse off;

• Asked whether they felt England should be able to vote on independence, 45% said yes, 47% who said no. This comes just weeks after Scottish secretary Michael Moore suggested two referendums would be needed.

Responding to the poll, a spokesman for Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said the polling showed England was relaxed about the prospect of independence:

“We welcome this poll as it shows that the ordinary people of England are quite relaxed about Scotland becoming independent, which is a common sense view that stands in marked contrast to that of many of their political leaders, who remain obsessed with the union.

“The people of England also agree that it should be up to the people of Scotland to decide their own future.”

On the final point, however, chairman of ComRes Andrew Hawkins seemed to disagree, saying:

“That almost half of the English feel that they would like a say over Scotland’s future suggests that the Union should be England’s as well as Scotland’s to determine.”

For Scottish Labour, leader Iain Gray, whilst recognising the SNP’s mandate to hold a vote, said the Scottish government should now come clean with an exact date for a referendum and end the uncertainty which surrounds it.

Responding to the he said:

“People from across the country are proud to be part of a truly United Kingdom and understand that we are stronger together and weaker apart.

“Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Scots know that Scotland is big enough, rich enough in talent, and smart enough to make the most of all the opportunities that being part of a bigger social and economic unit, such as the United Kingdom, bring us. That’s our best chance to secure the best possible future for all Scots. This poll shows that people in England agree and I welcome that.

“Of course, the SNP have a mandate to hold a referendum on separation, but it is for the people of Scotland to decide. The SNP must come clean on the date, the question and the proposition so the people of Scotland can decide, instead of continuing to duck and dive on all these key issues.”

The poll comes as Anne McEvloy, Public Policy Editor at the Economist, used an edition of Radio 4’s Analysis programme to outline a new running joke across Scotland.

Writing for BBC News online ahead of her programme she explained:

“Scottish Nationalist politicians can, of course, claim that the public has experienced the SNP as a minority government at Holyrood, and has made a choice this year that the party can be trusted on managing the economy (or at least, prefers them to the alternatives).

“But it is possible that the light will change as a referendum nears – though the failure to put a date on it leads to some joking that it is a “neverendum”.”

She quotes finance secretary John Swinney’s making the case not for fully-fledged independence, but so called “devolution max”, arguing:

“If I think about when I joined the SNP in 1979, the definition of independence was very different to what it is today. [Today] we argue for Scottish independence within a social union with the rest of the United Kingdom because we have so many social contacts.

“What our politics are about is about political control – political, economic and financial control to ensure we can create a strong and a fair country.”

McElvoy concludes:

“The Nationalists will have one shot at a referendum for the foreseeable future and they will not want to put before the public a notion of Scottish autonomy which seems to risk more than it gains in economic certainty.”

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16 Responses to “The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?”

  1. James Mills

    The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand? – @EdJacobs1985 reports

  2. Jonathan Baldie

    RT @leftfootfwd: The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?

  3. PMK

    McElvoy’s use of the term “neverendum” shows her ignorance of other comparable situations … such as that in Quebec, making a “joke” out of a term she doesn’t understand is hardly an endorsement of her ability to comment on Scottish politics.

    Where do English voters stand (on Scottish independence)? WHO CARES?

    The views of the English electorate are irrelevant … are people seriously suggesting that Scotland could say “yes” and England (what of Wales and N.I. in this?) say “no”, and Scottish independence could be blocked? Or, are people saying that Scots could say “no” the English “yes” and Scots could be “turfed out” against their will in a political version of the clearances?!

    The views of the English electorate (and politicians) are of no more relevance to Scotland’s future than that of those voters in Moscow, Berlin, Washington or Fiji … self-determination is all that matters.

    Of course, England could vote for independence (for itself), and be the first country to leave the Union … Scotland would be the successor state in such a situation … obviously.

  4. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?

  5. mr. Sensible

    m totally opposed to the break-up of the union, and I think those numbers help dispell the myths we some times get from parts of the right-wing media.

  6. Dee

    If England voted to leave the Union then the United Kingdom would comprise of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England would then need to fund it’s own border patrols, it’s own embassys, it’s own defence as the MOD is owned by the UK. This shows how feeble English views are towards the Scots.

  7. Wyrdtimes

    Left foot forward spin the "English views" ComRes poll results. Forgetting the 36% of English who want independence

  8. Wyrdtimes

    Oh you missed a bit…

    from the ComRes website:

    “Irrespective of the outcome of the Scottish referendum, do you think that England should become a fully independent country with its own government, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, or not?

    Yes it should: 36%
    Not it should not: 57%
    Don’t know: 7%

    • People from groups AB (29%) are least likely to think that irrespective of the Scottish Referendum, England should become a fully representative country with its own government – this compares to 47% from group C2.”

    47% of the English skilled working class know they are English, know the UK parliament fails them, and have come to the conclusion that they want independence for their country.

  9. James Matthews

    “• Forty eight per cent oppose the idea of Scotland becoming independent, with 36% in support and 15% undecided;”

    It is really quite extraordinary how this is being spun as somehow a good result for the Union. England, unlike Scotland, has not had seven decades of a nationalist party campaigning for separation, nor has the Labour Party in England emphasised the separate nature of England in the way that it emphasised the separate nature of Scotland during the Thatcher years – playing the national, if not the nationalist, card – yet more than a third of English voters wish to see an end to the Union with Scotland and more than half don’t much care whether it continue or not.

    It means that across the UK state as a whole more than a third of the population is disaffected. Twenty years ago the numbers, in England at least (and England has 84% of the UK population), would not have been nearly as high. Unionists, because of their neglect of English interests, have been losing the battle for hearts and minds at what is, in historical terms a dramatic rate. There is no reason to believe that this trend can be reversed, so the Union looks doomed.

  10. Tahir Mohammed

    Very strange debate: The debate on Scottish independence: where do English voters stand?

  11. Graeme

    in all of this I keep asking why Wales and Northern Ireland are ignored. Are they just the kids in the divorce?

  12. Stephen Gash

    The English, Welsh and N. Irish should be given referenda on their own independence. The “alleged” grievance felt by the English is in fact real. Calls for English independence have risen from next to nothing in 1997 to 36% now.

    Calls for an English parliament have consistently been around 63% and for only English MPs to decide English matters at over 72%. Denying the English a say has diminished their good will to the Union and “fellow Brits”.

    The “neverendum” is a real cause for concern. We have an economy in dire straits and for the SNP to be permitted to keep the rest of the UK hanging around destabilising matters when we need just the opposite, is intolerable. afterall, this pretendy0inde party has no mandate at all in Westminster with a mere six MPs. Labour gave the SNP a drubbing in the 2010 general election. So, the referenda should be held this year.

  13. Selohesra

    Independence would not only allow English taxes to be spent in England but should guarantee we never see another Labour government in England for decades to come.

  14. Don Beadle

    A second referendum in England would need to be about whether we accept the detailed terms of Scottish independenc. How should the assets and liabilities of the Union be divided? The difficulty of negotiating such terms is that there is no one who can democratically speak for England and its interests. The UK government would have to be the arbiter so cannot represent English interests. In the absence of an English referendum agreeing the terms there would be continuing strife and argument between England and Scotland.

  15. Terry


    The sentence that reads “The alleged resentment felt by some in England towards a Scotland they perceive as having a better deal than them…” should read…

    “The justifiable resentment felt by working people in England towards a Scotland they know are having a better deal than them…”

    @Selohesra, of course there’ll be a Labour government in the future. England alone would have returned the last Lab Govts since 1997, on its own.

  16. Look Left – The week the gutter press were finally reined in | Left Foot Forward

    […] Tuesday, meanwhile, Left Foot Forward reported on new polling suggesting English voters wanted a say over whether Scotland should or should not go […]

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