Governing by opinion polls is a disaster in the making especially on nation changing matters.
A second Scottish independence referendum could take place if polling consistently shows 60 percent of Scots desire a fresh vote, according to a senior U.K. Cabinet minister.
The Scottish National Party has pushed for a second independence referendum since they lost a 2014 vote. They were emboldened earlier this year after pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in May’s Scottish parliamentary election and said a second referendum should take place in the “early part” of the current parliament, due to last for five years.
The U.K. government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have consistently rebuffed calls for any new referendum, though the Scottish government has indicated that following May’s election result, they will press on with a referendum bill in the Scottish parliament, risking an extended legal battle with Westminster. Following the 2014 vote, former Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the debate was “settled for a generation” and his successor Theresa May later said “now is not the time” to rerun the vote.
But in an interview with POLITICO, Johnson’s Scotland Secretary Alister Jack suggested for the first time what it would take for the U.K. government to grant a second vote.
Earlier in August, Jack’s fellow Cabinet minister Michael Gove — who is in charge of Union policy — told the Sunday Mail that “if it is the case that there is clearly a settled will in favor of a referendum, then one will occur.”
Asked in reference to Gove’s comments to outline what he felt would show there was a “settled will” for a new referendum, Jack pointed to a figure of “60 percent” of Scots.
“If you consistently saw 60 percent of the population wanting a referendum — not wanting independence but wanting a referendum [to take place] — and that was sustained over a reasonably long period, then I would acknowledge that there was a desire for a referendum,” Jack said. “Anyone can see that.
“But that’s not where we are and it’s not how I perceive things to be,” he added. “I think I’m broadly where the public are, which is that now is not the time to be having a referendum. We’ve had one, we’ve made our decision, let’s get on and rebuild the economy and rebuild people’s lives.”
After 20 consecutive opinion polls between summer 2020 and spring 2021 indicated a lead for the “Yes” side, more recent independence polls have largely shown a small lead in favor of Scotland remaining in the U.K. In the most recent poll measuring opinion on the timing of a second referendum, Scots were split by 42 percent to 40 percent in favor of holding a referendum in the next five years.
We can all recall major polling failures such as the 1992, 2015, and 2017 general elections, just imagine if elections & policy decisions were based on polls and not actual votes? Those failures were made by honest pollsters making wrong assumptions without any mischief or malice intended by them.
Just imagine the pickle Alistair Jack and the government would find itself if in a few years the polls consistently showed the Scottish electorate in favour of a new independence referendum whilst simultaneously electing at a UK wide general election and/or at the Holyrood election a majority of Unionist parties as their elected officials? Using polls to determine things was just as silly when Nicola Sturgeon suggested something similar.
I might not like it but the pro independence movement won a majority of seats in May on explicit mandates to hold a new independence referendum, to try and ignore that in favour of opinion polls is an affront to democracy and also causes the UK government problems. Perhaps the UK government will change policy based on the plethora of polls that shows in hindsight Brexit was the wrong choice? Or that more people want the universal credit uplift to remain than want to cut it.
At least we now know what the threshold is for the current government is for granting a Section 30 order. We might just have indyref2 before the next UK general election, exciting times.