Poll Points To Scottish Independence

16 March 2015, 07:22 | Updated: 16 March 2015, 07:26

A majority of people in the UK believe Scotland will become an independent country despite the No vote in last year's referendum, according to a study.

In Scotland, 69% believe there will be a split while 59% of those surveyed in England, 54% in Wales and 59% in Northern Ireland think that Scotland will eventually leave the UK.

The findings are from a survey of more than 7,000 voters across the UK by a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh.

The level of engagement around the referendum looks to have had a legacy with 76% of Scots who took part saying they will vote in May's election, compared to 63% in England, 64% in Wales and 55% in Northern Ireland.

The contrast is bigger among young people with 65% of 18 and 19-year-olds in Scotland saying they will vote, compared to just 34% in England.

The survey also found that satisfaction with the UK's current constitutional arrangements varies. In England, 43% believe their country receives less government spending than it is due while the figure is 44% in Scotland, 37% in Northern Ireland and 68% in Wales.

The researchers found that there is majority agreement that a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union (EU) should be decided by a majority of votes across the UK, instead of individual countries being allowed to veto the result.

In Scotland, 45% support a proposal that each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to vote in favour of an EU exit for it to happen. In the other countries, support is lower.

A majority of people would like all devolved administrations to have control over the same powers, the study found while most people said that not enough time has been spent discussing constitutional issues.

Despite the views on constitutional issues, those surveyed do not believe "ordinary people'' have a big influence on how the UK is run.

Politicians, parties, businesses, trade unions and local councils are seen to hold greater influence on the running of the country.

The researchers also interviewed party campaigners, civil servants and politicians, including at least one member from each political party who sat on the Smith Commission on Scottish Devolution, as part of the study.

The respondents who took part in the commission talks said their emphasis was on creating a good political solution in a tight time scale, but that ``they may have underestimated the public appetite for continued constitutional discussion'', according to the study.

Dr Jan Eichhorn, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science, said: "People across the UK show an appetite for discussions about how the country should be governed.

"Seeing a lasting, positive effect on political engagement in Scotland beyond the referendum is encouraging and shows that people can be activated politically. However, it is worrying to see how little people think they can actually make a difference.''

Dr Daniel Kenealy said: "Despite Nicola Sturgeon's call for an EU referendum veto by the four nations of the UK, and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones's support for the idea, it remains unpopular with people across the UK.

"This shows us that on some issues people across the UK still think in terms of a single political unit making big decisions.''

Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney welcomed the findings on the level of political engagement north of the border.

He said: "The Scottish Government continues to believe independence is the best option for Scotland, and the survey finds most Scots think this is where the constitutional journey will take us.

"We also believe strongly that Scotland being taken out of the EU in a referendum in circumstances, where a majority of Scots had voted to stay in, would be massively damaging economically and have major constitutional implications.

"The referendum on independence was a wonderful experience of democratic engagement, bringing people into politics who in some cases had not been involved in decades, if at all.''

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said it is "no surprise people fear the constitutional question isn't yet over'' because of speculation over a possible partnership between Labour and the SNP at Westminster after the election.

A Labour spokesman said: "This poll shows that people are frustrated with the way that politics works, and they want to have a bigger say in how our country is run. Making our country work for working people is the best way to bring all parts of it together again.

"That is why Labour has committed to a constitutional convention, made up of people from all parts of the country and all walks of life, to change the way our country works.''