Are voters viewing independence as the alternative to ConDem cuts?

Only the other day, I was bemoaning the need for ITN news to dust off its unemployment totaliser, and then I go and discover it sort of has.

ITV is commissioning monthly polls from Com Res to create a Cuts Index and October’s makes for fascinating reading.

The sample base for Scotland is small, only 176, so it cannot be read as representative, but as a snapshot of sentiment, it seems to highlight a number of trends.

Firstly, there is a reason leading SNP figures are trotting out this line about Labour’s continuing support for the Union will consign Scotland to a lifetime of Tory governments.  Poll findings suggest it has traction with Scottish voters.

In the October Cuts Index, when asked about the key UK politicians and trusting them to see the country (sic) through the current economic situation, Scots’ opinions varied considerably from those of the UK as a whole.  George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer?  Only 18% of Scottish respondents trust him compared to 27% of all respondents.  For David Cameron, it’s worse – one in five Scots compared to over one-third of total respondents (36%).  Nick Clegg performs slightly better but it’s relative – only 13% of Scots trust him compared to 16% of all respondents:  the issue here is the lack of trust everyone has in his leadership qualities.  Ed Miliband has a similar problem, with only 9% trusting him compared to 16% in total.

Setting aside the bit part players, it is clear that Scottish opinion (albeit a small tranche of it) finds the Conservatives less trustworthy than the UK generally.  Hence, this argument from the SNP but also some hope for Labour – resurrecting the threat of the Tories wasn’t necessarily a poor election ploy per se, it just didn’t play well in the context of a Scottish election.

There is also considerable divergence in feelings of optimism and pessimism about the economy.  The survey posited a number of attitudinal statements:

  • the way the government is going about cutting public spending is fair
  • the government is cutting public spending too much and too quickly
  • things in this country are headed in the right direction
  • the UK is on course for another wave of recession
  • I know someone who has lost their job since the Credit Crunch in 2008
  • I or a member of my family are seriously worried about losing our jobs
  • I feel more confident in my personal financial situation than I did six months ago
  • I am confident that the company I work for will be more successful financially in the next year, than last year
  • I expect that there will be more redundancies made at my workplace in the next year, than last year

On all of these indicators, which make for a great test of the temperature of the nations and regions on the economy, Scotland is either less optimistic or more pessimistic than the UK.  Only on the one on redundancies, do Scots think slightly more positively than the UK (35% to 36%).

And on the ones which include an assessment of the UK Government’s performance, Scotland diverges sharply.  Only one in four Scots think the government is going about cutting public spending fairly, compared to 36% of total respondents;  nearly two-thirds of Scots (65%) disagree with the assertion that the country is headed in the right direction while 55% of total respondents do (hardly a UK wide endorsement of the ConDems incidentally);  and nearly 70% compared to just over 60% think the country ie the UK is headed for another recession.

The sample sizes are tiny so caution must be applied, but this split in opinion is interesting in terms of its relationship with our constitutional future. For the first time in a long time, a narrow majority of Scots support independence – consistently, across a range of polls – with the numbers outright opposed shrinking.  The direction of travel is away from no towards don’t know and yes. Independence appears to be emerging as offering Scotland an alternative economic route to a generation of austerity and ConDem cuts.

This Index does not ask about Alex Salmond’s performance as First Minister nor John Swinney’s as Scotland’s Finance Secretary so we cannot tell if they would emerge with different ratings on their capabilities.  But one finding does suggest that the Scottish Government’s approach to handling the economic situation finds favour with Scots.  When asked if the Government should invest in a series of large-scale infrastructure projects to boost UK employment, 65% of all respondents agreed it should, and 67% of Scottish respondents agreed.  Given that this is a major plank of Plan MacB, it would seem to chime with voters here (and offer a hint to the UK Government that people are looking for a more Keynsian approach).

Of course, what would be nice is a much larger Scottish sample or purely Scottish survey (hints) which explored this kind of territory.  But even this snapshot starts to explain what appeared a puzzling drift of support towards independence so early on in the SNP’s second government term, with the potential to create the perfect storm of opinion in favour of independence I blogged about a wee while back.

It all suggests that the Scottish Government’s tactics are sound: continuing to point up the failings of Westminster to assist the Scottish economy, to emphasise the role of the Conservatives, in particular, in it all, to pick fights with the big bad wolf of UK government on a range of issues while forging its own path with an economic growth plan and programme for government which chimes with Scottish voters.

This presents something of a challenge for Labour, which has switched focus since the election by trying to pin down the SNP Government as being to blame for service cuts and job losses.  They’re not just Tory cuts, the narrative goes, they’re also SNP cuts.  It would appear the Scottish electorate isn’t listening, or at least hearing that message, for now, again indicating just how out of step with Scottish opinion and mood the Labour party is currently.  And how much work it has to do to find its way back.

No wonder the SNP is heading to its annual conference in Inverness in buoyant mood.

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About burdzeyeview

A Scottish burd casting a beady eye over political, topical, economic and social issues that ruffle my feathers.

Posted on October 16, 2011, in Political witterings and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. One of the main reasons I am for Independance is my dislike of English Tory policies beginning with Thatcher. I believe that with independance Scotland will vote in a socialist government, and this is what I want. It isn’t the only reason, but it is an important one. I think ‘no more Tory cuts ever’ an aspiration many voters will share.

    I realise that this means abandoning the Labour voting North of Engand to Tory goverments for the forseeable future because a Labour majority woud be difficult to win in Scotland without the Scottish vote. Also there is a huge problem for me and many others with the way the Labour Party has swung to the right. The good thing about independance is the chance for a new start for Labour and the Left in Scotland.

    The other reason for backing independance is that I don’t believe the best interests of people living in Scotland are considered in making policies in Westminster. The Scottish people are a forgotten minority and a Scottish government is necessary to safeguard Scottish interests.

    • I’ve seen it pointed out several times on blogs that, contrary to popular belief, Labour would still have won the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections without Scottish votes.

      Whether they would have won any of them without lurching to the right is, of course, an entirely different matter. Even though England voted for Labour those years, it is still a centre-right country.

      • The big problem for me is that when the Tories (since Thatcher) get in England becomes a far-right country and I find this just about intolerable. And lots of people seem to feel the same, with the whole hatred of Thatcher as a symbol of far-right England, and all the tactical voting people have been doing in Scotland just to keep the Tories out at Westminster.

        I cannot understand why ordinary English people would vote in a far-right government who are going to work against their best interests.

        For me, voting for Independence is just the last stage of this tactical voting to avoid far-right English policies. Devomax won’t do it because any time a far right government could revoke it. I just don’t want to be part of any far-right country (not if I can help it).

      • I don’t know either, but they keep doing it. 32 years of continuous right-wing rule (New Labour being about as left-wing as Alan Hutton) suggest that there is just something about England’s politics on the whole that embraces right-wing idealism. It’s quite well suited to a country that expects to be the best at everything and throws its toys out of the pram when this is shown not to be so.

  2. Dave McEwan Hiull

    No need to worry.
    The only opposition politician to have largely realised what is happening is probably not going to get to be leader of Scotland’s Tories.
    Where will he go then?

    Will he form a new Party anyway?.
    If this is completely independent of London will it get to discuss whether independence might be the best option for Scotland?

  3. On the other hand:

    Attitudes survey shows Scotland has moved on

    The results of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS) show Scotland has moved on as a nation the SNP said, with three-quarters of Scots now saying they believe the Scottish Government should have the most influence over how Scotland is run.

    Research by the SSAS shows that 74 per cent believe the Scottish Government should have most influence over their everyday lives, compared to just 16 per cent who thought the UK Government should have more influence.

    Similarly, 61 per cent of people said they trusted the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests, while the number who believed the UK Government could be trusted fell to just 22 per cent.

    Responding to the survey SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said:

    “This survey shows that Scotland has moved on as a nation and underlines the appetite for further constitutional progress to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

    “As the SNP goes into our conference this week, these findings are not just an endorsement of the Scottish Government, but are a real encouragement that people in Scotland want to take charge of their own destiny – and only the SNP matches those aspirations.

    “In contrast, the Westminster parties have been left behind, with people looking for far more than the meek provisions of the Tory Scotland Bill. The vast majority of people want Scotland’s Parliament to have the full economic clout needed to fight recession, support recovery, and build a fair society – which is why the Scotland Bill needs to be improved and strengthened.

    “The debate in Scotland is no longer between change or no change – it is about the kind of change we seek, and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum.

    “Popular opinion in Scotland has moved far beyond the status quo. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows a clear majority of people in favour of radical constitutional progress for Scotland.

    “Instead of facing a decade of dismal cuts from London Scotland should be taking the opportunity to introduce the powers in Scotland to tackle the economic problems we face, to support our communities and our families and to build a better Scotland. The current Scotland bill falls well short of that task.

    “Whilst the UK Scotland Bill is a Tory trap to cut the Scottish budget the SNP will try to improve this bill to protect Scotland and to meet the ambitions of the people of Scotland.”

  4. Aye the nights are fair drawing in? There’s definitely a wee nip in the air!

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