Blog: Starting gap between Yes and No ‘narrower’ thanks to Brexit, says pollster – The National

THE gap between Yes and No voters in Scotland is now “much narrower” thanks to Brexit, a top pollster has said.

Professor John Curtice was asked for his assessment of what would happen if indyref2 was held tomorrow and what the outcome would be.

He pointed to stagnated polling which over the past year has shown No fluctuating between a percentage point or two ahead of Yes.

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However, he added that the starting position of both sides is now much closer together than it was in 2014, when No had an advantage.

It came as SNP MP Drew Hendry and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar clashed over indyref2 during a debate on the issue on Politics Live on Wednesday.

Journalist Jo Coburn asked Curtice (below) what he thinks would happen if a second independence referendum was held tomorrow.

The National: John Curtice


He said: “The honest truth is that we don’t know and that’s the problem that faces both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson.

“This morning’s poll is Yes 49, No 51, and that’s pretty typical.

“The polls have now, certainly over the last year or so, have typically been having No very slightly ahead of Yes, but certainly the position in Scotland is now much narrower between those two camps than it was at the time of the 2014 referendum and in truth, this is one of the pieces of paradoxical damage from Brexit.”

Curtice pointed out that voters in Scotland strongly backed Remain, by almost “two to one”.

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He added that while most people’s attention in 2019 was in the House of Commons when the Brexit withdrawal bill was being debated and the resignation of Theresa May, in Scotland this was pushing voters towards the Yes case.

He explained: “In Scotland, what was happening was that those people who voted remain were beginning to shift in decisive numbers towards Yes, not enough to produce a route necessarily majority for Yes, but certainly to take Yes to a 50-50 situation.

“So therefore, basically, we just don’t know what would happen and that therefore holding a referendum or any point in the near future is a very substantial risk both for the Scottish Government and for the UK.”

Later in the programme Hendry (below), SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was probed on the topic.

The National:


He said that unlike Brexit, which had “no more than a single-sided A4 paper with a couple of lines written on it”, the Scottish Government are set to publish white papers on what an independent Scotland could look like.

We previously told how numerous civil servants have been assigned to the task, and that the First Minister has conducted high-level meetings with officials to discuss the details and what to include in the blueprints.

Coburn asked Hendry how far into preparation the Scottish Government was.

He replied: “I’m not in the Scottish Government so I’m not in a position to tell you the stage of that work at the moment.

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“What I can tell you is that work is now going on. It’s been completed very thoroughly so that the prospectus as it was in 2014 can be put very clearly to the Scottish people.

“In 2014 there was a book that was put forward in terms of the white paper which was very detailed…”

Coburn interrupted to ask if the case for independence was more complicated now because of Brexit.

Hendry said: “In many ways it’s less complicated now post Brexit because you’re really rejoining the largest market on our doorstep…”

To which Coburn pointed out that the EU would have to accept an independent Scotland’s application.

The National: Should Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar be doing more to win back Labour voters who have defected to the SNP?

Hendry replied: “I think anyone who’s been listening to the mood and news across the EU will understand that it’s going to be looked on very warmly by the European Union members. They are about expanding the EU and Scotland is a perfect candidate given its natural resources…”

Hendry later clashed with Labour leader Sarwar (above) when the unionist leader was asked to give his view.

Sarwar said that the referendum bid is a game the SNP have been playing for eight years to keep the membership “believing that the referendum on independence is around the corner, just to keep hold of power and also not have to do things in government to change people’s minds”.

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He continued: “Drew wants to tell everybody that Brexit was really really hard, which it was, Brexit was really really tough, which it was, but somehow independence is going to be…”

Sarwar angrily responded to Hendry who had tried to speak over the Labour leader as both were contributing to the programme via video call.

He added: “Drew we’re not in some kind of childhood debating chamber now, so if you could let me finish my point that would be good.

“This idea that somehow independence is really really easy. It’s a light switch moment and there’s no consequences, no dangers? Brexit was a mess. It’s caused years of chaos. Why do you want that chaos right now in Scotland?”

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