The Scottish referendum

Laurence Janta-LipinskiAssociate Director
Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
January 18, 2012, 5:11 PM GMT+0

Scots favour 'devo-max' ahead of independence; many potential voters still yet to decide

Scots are in favour of granting the Scottish government increased levels of responsibility and power, but most do not want total independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, our most recent poll on the issue of Scottish independence has found.

However, results show that opinion is split over the options that should be available on the actual referendum, whether it offers choices that would force voters to say that they were either for or against total independence, or also give Scots the choice to hand more powers to Holyrood without breaking entirely from the Union.

Notwithstanding, the percentage of people saying that they intend to vote changes very little whether the referendum were to offer two or three options ‒ and a separate question found that just under half of Scots say that they are certain of how they want to vote on the issue anyway.

  • When it comes to the referendum on Scottish independence, there is a near 60/40 split in favour of granting the Scottish government further powers (58% vs. 42%) and the same split against total independence (39% in favour vs. 61% opposed)
  • When given three options to choose from – 44% of Scots believe that the Scottish government alone should make the decisions rather than the Westminster Government (12%), or a combination of the two (39%)
  • Opinion is very much split over whether to break from the Union entirely, however, with the referendum likely still two years away, just 47% of those who would vote for and against independence are certain over how they will vote
  • Just under half of respondents say that they are certain about how they would vote in an independence referendum, and although a further 32% are unlikely to change their mind, this still leaves a large number of people open to changing their mind on the issue

Referendum options

Scottish respondents are split over the options that should be included on the referendum, however.

  • 43% feel that the question should be a simple yes or no to complete independence, while a very similar 46% say that a third option of maximum devolution ('devo-max') should be available, to allow the Scottish government to gain more control without taking full independence from the rest of the Union
  • Scottish opinion is also split over when the referendum should be held (33% say 2014 vs. 38% who favour an earlier date)

Despite the strength of feeling on both sides, the content of the referendum actually seems to make very little difference to Scots' opinions of their likelihood to vote.

  • If we look at only the figure for those who say they are certain to vote, there is only a 5% drop from the three option referendum (73%) in comparison to the straight choice option (78%)
  • It seems that the referendum will need to be very much Scots-initiated to secure the highest turnout, as the idea of a UK-initiated referendum drops the 'certain to vote' figure down to 65%

Comparing the results

Looking at this in comparison to our standard question on independence voting, it is broadly the same.

  • Our poll last week for The Sun works out at 62/38 against total independence once 'don’t know' and 'wouldn’t vote' responses are removed
  • Similarly, 30% of respondents would agree to both options, 28% would agree only to a solution which granted the Scottish government further powers, and only 10% would favour total independence.
  • Just one third (33%) disagree to all options

The results therefore suggest that Salmond has much more to gain from a three option referendum than he stands to lose.

SNP ahead of Labour in most recent poll

In other news, our polling shows that the SNP is gaining ground in Scotland. Our last poll, in May 2011, had Labour with a 16 point lead over the SNP, but in the current poll, the SNP have a two point lead over Labour and a 12 point lead in Holyrood voting.

See the survey details and full results here

Explore more data & articles