Yesterday Alex Salmond was doing his best to persuade Scots to vote Yes in the referendum. Today we get the result of the first poll – conducted by YouGov for The Sun – to ask people in England and Wales how they would vote in response to the referendum question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’.
For all the concern that has been expressed about an English backlash, there is little sign in this poll that voters south of the border are coming increasingly to believe that Scotland should leave the Union. Just 22% of people in England say they would vote Yes while 55% would mark their ‘X’ against No. With Wales included too, the 22% figure slips to 21%.
Support for Yes is seemingly down on what it was exactly a year ago. Then, as part of the Future of England survey YouGov asked English voters how they would vote in response to the referendum question originally proposed by the Scottish Government, namely, ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’. In that poll 32% said Yes while 49% said No.
Support for independence is also down on the level registered by an ICM poll in September that asked a slight variant of the referendum question. It found 31% of people in England were in favour while 52% were opposed. Mind you, another poll conducted at much the same time by TNS BMRB and using anther slight variation on the referendum question put support for independence in England & Wales at much the same level as in this latest poll, with 22% in favour and 53% opposed. So we cannot be completely sure that the particularly low level of support registered in today’s poll is not in part at least a consequence of its methodology as opposed to simply being indicative of a clear swing against Scottish independence.
Today’s poll was conducted in Scotland as well as in the rest of Great Britain. But just 201 of its respondents actually live north of the border. It thus cannot be regarded as a reliable measure of what Scotland’s voters were thinking as the White Paper was being unveiled. To see whether or not yesterday’s publication has impressed Scotland’s voters we will have to wait a few days – at least.