Scottish independence vote would be on knife-edge, polls show

Scottish independence vote would be on knife-edge, polls show
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(Sept 10): Scotland is split down the middle on the question of seeking independence from the U.K. as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attempts to reinvigorate her drive for another referendum after the pandemic.

A poll for the Scotsman newspaper published on Friday put opponents of a breakaway ahead by 52% to 48% after excluding respondents who didn’t yet know how they would vote. That came a day after a survey for Sky News put supporters of independence in front, by 51% to 49%.

Sturgeon, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, said this week her administration in Edinburgh would restart work on preparing for a referendum and championing the argument for leaving the U.K. after Brexit. 

In a speech outlining her program for government, she asserted that a vote would be held by the end of 2023, though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he won’t grant the legal permission to hold one. Sturgeon says her election victory in May gave her the mandate. “Democracy surely has to count for something,” she told Good Morning Britain on Friday.

The fresh polling comes after the SNP formed a governing alliance with the Green Party to reinforce a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP also holds its annual conference this weekend, where Sturgeon is likely to face rumblings within her party over whether her aim of forcing the U.K. to acquiesce to a new vote can work.

“Most SNP, and indeed Green, voters do want the Scottish government to deliver a referendum at some point,” John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, wrote in the Herald newspaper. “Sturgeon may have some time to develop her plans for independence -- but ultimately she will eventually have to deliver.”

The Scotsman poll by Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,016 people on Sept. 3-9. Support for remaining in the U.K. was down by a percentage point. The Sky poll by Opinium canvassed 883 people between Sept. 2 and 8. Backing for independence in that survey was up by a percentage point.

Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the U.K. in a referendum seven years ago. Since then, the U.K. left the European Union, a decision opposed by the majority of Scottish voters.