The public have little appetite for a second independence referendum—and it's not clear Brexit will change that (yet)by John Curtice / June 28, 2017 / Leave a comment
Bloodied but, as yet, unbowed. That seems to be where Nicola Sturgeon now finds herself in the wake of her announcement in the Scottish Parliament yesterday that she proposed to “reset” her timetable for a second independence referendum.
Until now she had anticipated holding such a ballot in late 2018 or early 2019—that is, just before the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Yesterday, however, she said she would not attempt to introduce the legislation needed to hold a second referendum until the autumn of next year.
As a result, while the possibility of holding a second referendum within the relatively near future remains “on the table,” it is now highly unlikely that any ballot will be held before the UK leaves the EU.
A loss of public enthusiasm
There were three key considerations behind the First Minister’s decision. The most immediate was the losses the SNP suffered in the general election earlier this month. The party’s share of the vote fell from 50 per cent to 37 per cent, costing it 21 of the 56 seats that it had won in 2015.
That loss occurred in the wake of sustained criticism, and especially so from a revived Conservative Party, of the First Minister’s plans for “indyref2”—together with opinion poll evidence that there was not much enthusiasm for a second ballot anytime soon.
How far the SNP’s losses were occasioned by the row about a second referendum is far from clear, but there is little doubt that it is widely regarded as having been at least a contributory factor, including by some nationalists themselves.
Brexit means. . . not much
The second consideration was that Brexit has not moved the polling numbers on how people would vote in a second independence referendum. Few of those who voted No in September 2014 have been persuaded that the prospect of Scotland being required to leave the EU—even though 62 per cent of Scots had voted in favour of remaining—is sufficient reason to want to leave the UK.
The last half dozen polls on how people would vote in a second referendum have, on average, put Yes support at 44 per cent, no higher than the 45 per cent vote registered in the September 2014…