Brexit and Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic remain the two biggest issues driving support for Scottish independence, according to the country’s top pollster.
Professor Sir John Curtice said two surveys published over the weekend were further evidence that most Scots rate the Scottish Government’s handling of the public health crisis above that of Boris Johnson and the UK Government.
But the Strathclyde University academic warned the on-going row over the Internal Market Bill was failing to register with most voters, with “neither side winning this particular argument”.
The UK Government insists the legislation is about protecting a “single market” across Britain which means businesses won’t face different regulations post-Brexit, while SNP ministers claim the bill is simply a “power grab” that will see Westminster being able to trample over Holyrood’s authority.
A poll published on Sunday found that 43% of Scots said they were unable to say what impact the Internal Market Bill will have on devolution.
Prof Curtice told the Record it suggested the two sides of the debate were now “talking past each other”, with may voters being turned off as a result.
“Whether or not we are inside or outside the European Union is a clear argument for people to understand – you’re either for or against,” the academic said.
“The Internal Market Bill sees both sides deliberately talk past each other, because they are comparing the proposals with different base lines.
“Boris Johnson says he is giving more Scotland more powers – but he saying that from a Brexit perspective.
“But if you are a devolutionist, or a nationalist, you are asking what would happen if the principle of the 1998 Scotland Act was still operating – and that would be Holyrood gains even more power.
“The point is, because they are talking past each other, the public in many cases are struggling to follow the argument.
“Compared to even Brexit, it is very complicated.”
He continued: “It’s a development that doesn’t help the Unionist side, that much is clear. But it’s not clear it’s a particularly strong vote-winner for the nationalist side either.”
The professor said the recent surveys also found more people who voted No at the 2014 referendum on independence were now considering switching sides, compared to those who voted Yes.
He said: “It is consistent with the evidence of other polls which is that Yes has gained ground in recent months.
Asked what was driving this advance for Yes, Curtice added: “It’s two things – it’s Brexit, and it’s coronavirus.”