Whilst the experience of an SNP Government in Scotland has seemingly depressed support for Scottish independence, a majority of Scots feel that Holyrood should have responsibility for most domestic affairs. That’s the key findings of results contained today within the British Social Attitudes Survey.

As Alex Salmond and David Cameron are expected soon to meet to consider the detail of a referendum, the survey results out today provide sober reading for both sides.

It highlights:

  • 32% of Scots expressed support for independence, a 9% increase on 2010 but never the less down on the 35% who expressed support in 2005.
  • Just 53% of those who say they are “Scottish, not British” indicated support for independence whilst just 51% of those who said that they had voted SNP in 2011 favoured independence.

Commenting on the results, the survey concludes that:

“Far from stimulating support for independence, the experience of having the SNP in power after 2007 seemed, if anything, to have depressed it.”


  • Asked about the likely impact of independence, whilst 67% felt that people would have more pride in the country, just 34% thought the standard of living would improve, whilst 23% said that it would get worse.
  • 64% thought Scotland’s economy would be stronger as a result of devolution, whilst just 34% feel it would be stronger if Scotland became independent.

Meanwhile, amidst ongoing  debate between Westminster and Holyrood over whether “devo-max” should be an option on the ballot paper, 68% of people felt that the Scottish Parliament should set the basic rate of income tax, with 65% saying the same about the state pension.

In its comments on devo-max the report explains:

“Most people who believe that Scotland should be independent also believe taxation and welfare benefits should be decided by the Scottish Parliament. But so too do over half of those who oppose independence. Thus the responses…give the impression that ‘devolution max’ has majority support not because it is necessarily the single most popular option, but rather because it is the one option around which both ‘nationalists’ and many ‘unionists’ can seemingly potentially coalesce. It is perhaps not so surprising after all that the SNP have been willing to keep open the possibility that a ‘second question’ on more devolution might appear on the ballot paper, while both the UK government and some Labour politicians have indicated a willingness to contemplate further devolution too.”

Summing all the results up the survey goes on to conclude:

“There is no doubt the Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK is closer to being dissolved than at any time in its 300-year history. Its future looks set to rest in the hands of the Scottish public, who will make their opinion known via a referendum within the next couple of years. However, at present it appears that leaving the UK remains a minority preference, not least because people in Scotland are doubtful that it would bring them much material benefit.

“But the demand for outright independence is not the only challenge facing the Union. A majority of people in Scotland may currently be disinclined to vote to leave the UK, but many who support the Union nonetheless want Scotland to be responsible for most of its domestic affairs, including taxation and welfare benefits. As a result, it appears a scheme of devolution that goes considerably further than the current settlement, even as amended by the 2012 Scotland Act, may be able to generate a widespread consensus. Any such scheme would constitute a much looser Union than has hitherto been in place.”

Commenting on the results Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has recently been given responsibility for the referendum, declared:

“The survey shows 43 per cent support for independence and the Scottish Parliament making all the decisions for Scotland – up 15 points on 2010,” Ms Sturgeon said. “Becoming an independent nation is the most popular constitutional option, and demonstrates that the people of Scotland share our positive vision for the future of our country.”

A spokesperson for the Better Together campaign responded:

“No matter how the Nationalists try and dress this up, the simple fact is that, when asked the question about breaking up Britain, the majority of Scots say that they do not want it.”

Addressing the spin put on by both sides, in its editorial this morning the Herald argued that they showed that Scots remained sceptical about independence out of a sense of not knowing what it would mean. The paper this morning concludes:

“Overall, the conclusion must be that while not dismissing the idea of independence, a majority of Scottish voters need a lot more assurance that they personally and the country as a whole would flourish better outside the UK.”

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