April 2012: Scottish Independence

My recent e-consultation question on Scottish independence provoked a large response, with almost 500 constituents taking up the opportunity to give their opinions.

In total, 35% of respondents were in favour of Scottish independence, while 65% were against.

This e-consultation had a slight twist, as the wording of the question was varied for two different groups within the panel.

To those with surnames starting with A through to L, I asked “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”, the same question the SNP have said they would like to see on the ballot paper at the proposed referendum in 2014.

To those with surnames starting with M through to Z, I asked “Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom”, which is the question most commonly being asked in opinion polls on the subject.

I asked two questions to see if there would be any significant difference in support for independence as a result of the wording of the question. Some have suggested that the SNP’s preferred question which uses ‘agree’ is actually quite leading. An interesting article on this theory can be found atwww.ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/4741. Examples of how the media has reported on the issue can be found at www.guardian.co.uk/uk/scotland-blog/2012/jan/27/alex-salmond-s-first-challengeandwww.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/02/salmond-question-independence.

When asked if they agreed that Scotland should be an independent country, 31%of the 251 who were posed that question and responded said yes, with 68% saying no. 3 respondents did not answer either yes or no.

When asked if they supported Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the UK, 38% of the 244 who were posed that question and responded said yes, with 62% saying no.

Respondents, as ever, provided plenty of reasons behind their choice of vote and some did mention the fact that first question was perhaps slightly leading. Many also suggested that the referendum may have other questions, including giving the option of so-called ‘devomax’.

Common arguments for independence included:

  • The success of other small countries in Europe and elsewhere
  • Disillusionment with Westminster politics
  • More local accountability

Common arguments against independence included:

  • Greater exposure and less resilience to the Eurozone’s financial problems
  • Difficulties funding and governing an independent Scotland
  • Loss of British identity

The results of my e-consultation were interesting and not necessarily in line with the theories on leading questions. However, those of you with an interest in political polling will have recognised that it is difficult to read much into the small difference in the results for the two different questions. Due to the sample size, the difference is not statistically significant, as the margin of error is nearly 6%.

However what is clear is that people are passionate about the future of Scotland, whether that be part of, or separate from, the United Kingdom. The overall results suggest (within the margin of error) that East Dunbartonshire is firmly against independence and this is a view I share.

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