“Scotland in a Zoom” Project Published

Our Scottish Future has today published the findings of a ground-breaking new project that brought together scores of Yes and No voters from across Scotland.

“Scotland in a Zoom” encouraged voters on both sides of the constitutional debate to actively listen and positively engage with each other, before seeing where they could find consensus on a path forward for the country.

More than 80 voters from across Scotland took part in the virtual project in February and March this year, in groups of twelve over Zoom.

While participants disagreed on the big question of independence, the conversation events revealed widespread agreement across the constitutional divide.

As part of the session, Yes and No voters were grouped together to set out their priorities over the coming years. The sessions found: 

  • The vast majority of Yes and No supporters agreed investment in the economy, NHS and education were the top priorities for Scotland.
  • Investment in the NHS as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic was the top priority overall, agreed by two thirds of the groups.
  • Tackling climate change was also frequently cited, with a third of groups agreeing it should be a priority. 

In the events, equal numbers of Yes and No voters were placed into groups and asked to seek agreement on a constitutional path for Scotland.  

Though a majority did not want a second referendum under the timescale set by the SNP Government, there was widespread agreement that the constitution needed to be discussed over the coming 5 years, and that more opportunities to engage with each other would be beneficial. 

Our Scottish Future has set out a series of recommendations on the back of the report.

We are calling for politicians on all sides to find ways to allow the public to keep talking about the constitution – through Citizens Assemblies.

But key issues such as fixing the NHS, tackling climate change, giving young people hope for the future, and providing better quality housing cannot be put on hold, given people’s shared belief in action now.

It follows the call by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week for both the UK and Scottish Governments to do more to cooperate with one another on the key challenges Scotland faces, and on the constitution. 

Our Scottish Future project manager Eddie Barnes said: “Despite the apparent 50-50 division in political debate in Scotland, the project showed that voters from either side of the constitutional divide share many of the same values and hopes for the future – and, crucially, want those values and hopes to be better reflected in our politics.” 

“Participants appreciated the chance to hold a respectful conversation with people they disagree with on independence and the union. We believe the lesson for political leaders is to find more ways to bring people together to talk and listen to one another about these key issues.”

Scotland in a Zoom co-author Andrew Liddle said: “This report found a clear consensus among both Yes and No voters that Scotland must seek to avoid repeating the mistakes of Brexit when addressing its own constitutional future.”

“That means politicians better engaging with voters, but also being patient and not rushing into decisions that risk unnecessarily dividing Scotland.”

A copy of the full report can be found here.

It was compiled by Andrew Liddle, Eddie Barnes, Henry Stannard and Laurence Shorter.

Please see case studies of two participants who took part in the event. 

NO – Chelsea Rocks, 24, from West Dunbartonshire

I am not one of those people who goes around saying how much they love Britain. I just don’t think there is enough evidence that Scotland would be better off independent, and my view is – why would we do something that leaves us worse off? That said, I don’t blame Yes supporters for wanting change – especially when you see the deprivation and inequality around us. If you’ve only got £10 left, then you might well feel it’s worth the gamble – what have you got to lose?

The event provided us with a forum to talk. To begin with, some of the Yes people in the room had quite a lot of misconceptions about the No voters – I think they saw us as Unionist flag wavers. But once we battled past that, we were able to have a back-and-forth conversation and it turned out that there was a lot of agreement. When it comes to the economy, to the heath service, to education, the truth is that we all want the same things,  we just disagree about how we get there.

The format of the event really helped. Even when you’re talking to family members or you’re in the pub, if the subject of the constitution comes up, it can just descend into – well you’re wrong, and I’m right. Spending time looking at what we agree on opens you up to the idea that you might both be right and that leads to a much more mature conversation. It was also an opportunity to us to find out why people think independence is a good idea. You don’t get that in social media or in Holyrood or Westminster where all you get is politicians going back and forth at one another. We need more spend more time focussing on the things we agree on and then look at how we go from there.

YES – Gary Reilly, 38, from Edinburgh

For me, it comes down fundamentally to how we take the country forward. What we’re being offered by Westminster is a politics that’s sliding further to the right at every election. I would argue that this isn’t what Scotland actually votes for, it’s also not what Unionists in Scotland support either.

I thought the 2014 vote would have been enough of a scare for Westminster for them to equip the Scottish Parliament with genuine power but instead we got a bit of tax and tinkering with social security. I just don’t think Westminster is able to offer the kind of change people in Scotland want. 

Scottish politics can be a bit of an echo chamber so it was really nice to have a forum where you could speak to people of a different point of view. There’s also a lot of common ground – when somebody is talking about the NHS and the importance of healthcare, you don’t know whether they are Yes or No. I was paired with a lady who had real concerns about the impact of independence on the economy; she had a valid point. I don’t think it will be easy and there will be tough decisions to take.

One of the things I come away with as someone with a Yes perspective is that you have to stick to the basics. People want to know how they are going to pay for their weekly shopping, for their kids’ schooling and for their families. The basics really matter. Things like the currency arrangement – we need to have a common-sense position that people can understand.

On the referendum, a lot of the concern people had was on the timing of it. We should wait until we are through the worst of Covid. I do feel that we won’t be equipped fully for that until we are independent and have the full scope of powers that independence would bring.

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Tactical Voting and the Scottish Green Party

Last week, we released the results of our ‘Morning After Poll’, detailing our view of what Scotland voted for and why.  We tried pretty hard to be neutral in our tone, and give each party and side of the constitutional debate a bit of food for thought before making any big claims about what people voted for.

One interesting fact that caught us when we looked through the detailed poll findings was that after all of the pre-election conversation of Alex Salmond’s gambit for SNP List votes, the party that had the most benefitted from SNP switching was the Scottish Greens, who won over 6x the number of SNP constituency votes on the list as the Alba party, with half of their voters saying ‘I voted to elect as many pro-Independence MSPs as possible’ (not ‘I voted for the party I most wanted to win seats’)

Whilst interesting, this was not particularly surprising. We have no particular knowledge of SNP or Green campaign strategy, but it seemed fairly clear during the debates that Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie were enjoying at least some sort of unspoken mutual non-aggression pact that led to the near-absurd end-point of Nicola Sturgeon’s kindergarten teacher-style ‘interrogation’ of Patrick Harvie  in the STV debate (‘so what you’re saying Patrick is that there is no way to build the Scotland you want without Independence?).  

Indeed, perhaps the most surprised person in Scotland about these findings is Patrick Harvie, whose intemperate pool quote on the issue ended ‘it makes no sense at all to highlight some SNP voters who aren’t convinced about independence, but then pretend without a shred of evidence that every Green voter is voting tactically on the constitution alone’. Leaving aside the logical and evidential flaw in his argument (it’s half of his vote, not all of them),  we thought it worth showing some more shreds of evidence beyond the report we published, in case he is interested in learning about why people vote for his party in Scotland.

Before we go into detail we should be clear – with only 80 Green voters in our poll (c.50 on a weighted basis), some of the cross-cuts we refer to here are low n, but hopefully show enough evidence volume of evidence for those declaiming the political purity of their vote to at least countenance that the Greens benefitted from some SNP/Pro-Indy voters lending them a hand up the D’Hondt ladder.

The Background: The Greens are a party with very little ‘core’ support

As was published in our report on Thursday, we asked voters the day after the election the question ‘In this election which party did you want to win the most seats’.  We thought this would be the best way of working out what the ‘true desire’ of Scottish voters was, excluding tactical voting or use of the list as a ‘second preference.  The results aligned fairly well against the actual regional vote share of all the parties, other than the Greens.

The implication of this is fairly clear – whilst the Greens clearly have a good brand and people who like them there are very few people in Scotland who wake up in the morning defining themselves as a ‘Scottish Green’ politically. 

The Evidence for Tactical Voting

In our analysis we stated that around 50% of the Scottish Greens’ vote was tactical in order to maximize Yes MSPs.  This was a result of the response to the question Which of the following was most important in your voting decision at this election for your peach regional list vote?, where around half indicated that they just wanted to elect as many Pro-Indy MSPs as possible (a number that grows for SNP to Green switchers) 

Uncovering the true intentions behind people’s voting patterns is notoriously difficult to do, not least because of how people post-rationalise their behaviour.  However, we have a number of triangulating points that imply that a substantial proportion of the Green vote on the list was from SNP supporters who are strongly in favour of Independence 

  • 73% of Scottish Green list votes came from voters who voted for the SNP with their first vote (and 10% from Labour voters), making them the only one of the five largest parties to rely predominantly on one other party’s votes for a majority of their regional vote
  • 68% of the Scottish Green regional vote wanted the SNP to win the most seats – again this is highly unusual vs all other parties.  90% of SNP regional voters wanted the SNP to win the most seats, a number that is 77% for Labour, 85% for the Tories
  • The Scottish Green regional vote was substantially more nationalist than their constituency vote – with 65% of their list voters being either 9 or 10/10 in favour of independence (slightly more than SNP voters…) vs 46% of their constituency voters.
  • Scottish Green list voters prioritise having a second referendum more than SNP list voters (with 31% having preparing for a 2nd referendum as a top 3 priority for the Scottish government vs 26% of SNP voters)
  • Although a low n so to be taken with a pinch of salt, we also see a huge amount of switching from voters who voted Greens in the constituency to the SNP on the list (c.78% of Green voters)

The Implications of Tactical Voting

With the assumption that c.50% of Scottish Green votes were tactical votes lent by SNP voters, a Scottish Green vote of 4% (vs the 8%) and an SNP vote of 44% (vs 40%) would have had the following implications for the Scottish Greens at a regional list level, losing 6 of their 8 seats, giving 2 seats (and a majority) to the SNP, 3 seats to Labour and a seat to the Tories

  • Losing their final list seat in Central Scotland to Labour
  • Retaining their seat in Glasgow (slipping from 4th to 7th)
  • Losing one of their two Lothian seats to the SNP
  • Losing their Highlands & Islands Seat to the Labour party
  • Losing their Mid Scotland & Fife Seat to the Labour party
  • Losing their North East Scotland Seat to the Tories
  • Losing their West of Scotland seat to the SNP

For the leadership team of Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, there is a happy coincidence between their position on independence and their own self-interest as politicians seeking election. The Green cake was baked with pro-independence ingredients – and the party cannot protest when people wish to point out that they are eating it. The question it leaves hanging is who in Scotland is best able to represent environmentalists who do not view Scotland’s constitutional question as among the most pressing issues around climate change.

Full data tables for our ‘Morning After Poll’ are available at: https://www.stackdatastrategy.com/data

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Our Scottish Future’s “Morning After Poll” Reveals “Middle” Scotland

Our Scottish Future is today releasing the full findings of our exclusive “morning after poll” taken as Scotland voted in the election ten days ago.

The poll asked 1,000 Scots to set out why they voted as they did, what views they held on independence and another referendum, and what they want from the Scottish and UK Governments over the coming 5 years.

Key findings include:

  • A half of “Middle Scotland”, the voters who are open-minded about independence and the Union, backed the SNP – but they did so because they felt the party provided the best vision and leadership, not to get a referendum
  • In total, only 54% of SNP voters agreed we should start preparing for a referendum immediately, and one in five were either against independence or unsure.
  • Tactical voting for the Greens on the list by pro-independence supporters may have deprived the SNP of an overall majority. Had SNP constituency voters instead stuck with the SNP on the list, Nicola Sturgeon could have gained three more list seats.
  • Scotland is divided 50-50 on whether to have a referendum in this parliament, and support among many is conditional on whether the economy has recovered, and whether the options on both sides are clear.
  • Voters do not want the SNP to be “referee and captain” of the process, and they want the SNP to provide more facts about independence.
  • A majority of Scots think the best way for the pro-Union side to make its case is through cooperation, not confrontation with the Scottish Government.

The poll was carried out by Stack Data Strategy. 1,000 Scots were polled between the 7th and 8th of May 2021. Responses were weighted to census figures on age, gender, education level, and recorded 2021 vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections’

Analysis of the poll is available here.

Writing in its introduction, authors Henry Stannard and Evie Robertson conclude:  

“There a third ‘Middle’ Scotland that neither conforms to a binary Pro-Union or Pro-Independence view of the world, but that is greater in size than either of the extremes in the constitutional debate. Citizens in this Middle Scotland are both primarily Scottish and meaningfully British.  They vote in their droves for the SNP not because they want a referendum, but because the SNP appear to offer good leadership and government within a devolved state.  They do not oppose a referendum in principle, but have deep concerns over its practicality that must be resolved.”

“We hope that politicians from both sides can start listening to them.”

Next week, Our Scottish Future will publish the results of a major consultation exercise carried out this winter and spring with Yes and No voters.

Entitled “Scotland in a Zoom”, it brought together Scots with different views on the constitution and sought to find out what they had in common and how they might agree on the next steps for Scotland and the constitution.

Our Scottish Future is a new campaign set up to advance the patriotic, progressive and positive case for Scotland as part of our wider family of UK nations. The campaign intends to speak up for “middle Scotland” – people who voted Yes, No, Leave and Remain – and who are now looking for something better than a binary choice between hardline nationalism and no-change Unionism.

Full data tables are available at: https://www.stackdatastrategy.com/data

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Scotland Does Not Have The Facts on Independence, Poll Reveals

SNP Must “Open the Books”, Says Brown

A clear majority of Scots do not believe the SNP has given them enough facts about independence in order to make a fully informed choice on whether to leave the Union, a new poll by Our Scottish Future reveals today.  

Nearly 60% said they did not have enough information at their disposal on independence, the poll shows. 

And when asked about the key issues that will be affected by Scotland’s departure from the United Kingdom such as the English border, Scotland’s security arrangements, tax, currency, EU membership, and UK negotiations, fewer than a third of Scots say they feel confident about knowing what would likely happen.  

Today, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown declares that the SNP must “open the books” and warns that the SNP Government cannot be both judge and jury when setting out the case for an independent nation.  

Instead, he argues that the SNP should be prepared to open its case up to public scrutiny through parliamentary hearings.  

Today’s poll – taken over the same weekend that people voted on May 6th – also assessed people’s priorities in the wake of the election.  

Delivering a second referendum on independence was ranked 5th for SNP voters – below NHS catch up, reducing COVID, protecting and generating jobs and eliminating poverty.  

Among “middle Scotland” – the 40% of voters identified by Our Scottish Future who are open minded on the question of independence and the Union – preparing for a second referendum was bottom on the list of priorities.  

On the facts of independence, the poll asked people: “Do you believe that campaigners for independence have given enough information about what Scotland would be like if it became independent (eg: on currency, taxation, legal rights, EU membership, the border) for you to make a fully informed choice at a future referendum?  

A total of 58% said No. Only 30% said Yes. The remaining 12% said they did not know. Among those strongly in favour of independence, 66% said they had enough facts, but 24% said they did not. But of “middle Scotland” voters, 60% said they did not feel they had enough information.  

Mr Brown says today that the SNP should commit to public hearings in both the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments, so that MSPs and MPs are able to call experts on currency, finance, borders, and the EU, to get the facts on the table.  

“Middle Scotland’s support for the SNP and for independence is conditional – and they are now asking the SNP for honesty, for openness and for getting the facts on the table. It is time for the SNP to open the books.”  

“When even a quarter of committed independence supporters agree we don’t know enough to make an informed choice on independence, surely the onus is on the SNP to come clean?”  

“I believe that it is time for the SNP to agree to hold public hearings on what independence means for everything from the pound to the pension.”  

“Whether they are Yes, No, or undecided, people deserve to know the truth – from maintaining the Union, to reforming and renewing it, to leaving it altogether.”  

The poll also asked voters to set out their top three priorities going forward. “NHS catch up” was the most popular, followed by “reduce COVID/vaccines”, “protect and generate jobs”, “education catch up” and “reopen economy”. 

“Prepare for a second independence referendum” was 8th on the list. Among middle Scotland, it was bottom, and even among SNP voters, it came in fifth.  

1,000 Scots were polled by Stack Data Strategy between the 7th and 8th of May 2021. Responses were weighted to census figures on age, gender, education level, and recorded 2021 vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections .

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Scots Back Cooperation Not Conflict

An in-depth poll conducted by Our Scottish Future over the election weekend has revealed that Scots back more cooperation between the UK and Scottish Governments – and do not want them to prioritize preparations for another referendum. 

The poll – conducted as 48% of Scots voted SNP – found that a far higher number – 73 % – wanted better cooperation between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

Given 11 key priorities for action, such as the vaccination programme, NHS spending, and an education plan for young people, Scots ranked “preparing for a second referendum” in 8th place. 

The most popular choice was “ensuring that NHS Scotland catches up with appointments and procedures that they were unable to do during COVID.” 

The poll also showed that two-thirds of Scots agree that the best way to make the case for the Union is “to encourage better cooperation with Scottish institutions and be more inclusive of Scottish views.” 

Trying to show how the UK Government was better than the Scottish Government was backed by fewer than a half, by contrast. 

The findings come as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown today announces he is to lead a fresh campaign over the coming months to promote a “patriotic, progressive and principled case for Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom.” 

New ‘Cooperation Commissions’ on health, the economy, child poverty, and the environment will be set up to examine how best the Union can provide ‘added value’ to the key challenges the country faces over the coming years. 

Mr Brown also set out a fresh call for the UK Government to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the Union to examine the reforms needed to the UK to provide a better alternative to both the status quo and independence. 

Mr Brown says today that Our Scottish Future will become a new campaign with the aim of putting “the patriotic, progressive and principled case for Scotland’s future within the UK.” 

Writing in today’s Scotsman he says: “Today our think tank Scottish Future will transform itself into a campaigning movement and invite people to join us in putting the positive, progressive, and patriotic case for Scotland in Britain. Instead of focusing on powers the Parliament does not have we will focus on how we use the powers the Parliament does have to tackle poverty, unemployment, health inequalities, and climate change. Our Commissions on the economy, healthcare, climate change, and poverty will look at how cooperation can work to Scotland’s benefit by using all the resources of the UK.  And we will argue for a reformed UK with a more inclusive centre, a forum that brings the leaders of the nations and regions together and for them to be local focal points of economic initiative.” 

He adds: “And if the Prime Minister really is to be “minister for the union” rather than ‘minister for Unionists’ then he needs to do more than call a meeting with the leaders of Wales and Scotland. He can do so by making two big policy changes. He should order a constitutional review – Sir Keir Starmer has already done – of the whole future of the United Kingdom, specifically asking it to investigate alternatives to nationalism and the status quo. And he should concentrate on furthering cooperation in those areas where all the resources of the UK can be mobilized in support of the NHS, the fight for jobs, and the war on poverty and on climate change. He must now realise he has to change if the United Kingdom is to stay in being.”

Polling questions as follows:  

To what extent do you agree with the following statements on the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments? 

The Scottish and UK Governments cooperate well today: Disagree 54%. Agree 23% 

I want the UK and Scottish Governments to cooperate better in areas that affect my life: Disagree 7%. Agree 73% 

A more productive and collaborative relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments would be good for Scotland: Disagree 9%. Agree 68% 

There needs to be greater alignment of policy and messaging on key issues such as COVID between the two governments: Disagree 11%. Agree 66% 

The best way for the UK Government to make a case for the Union would be to encourage better cooperation with Scottish institutions and be more inclusive of Scottish views: Disagree 11%. Agree 64% 

The best way for the UK Government to make a case for the Union would be to demonstrate how it is better than the Scottish Government: Disagree 26%. Agree 46% 

The poll also reveals overwhelming support for more cooperation between the UK and Scottish Governments on the economic recovery, the NHS, climate change, the drugs crisis, education, poverty, transport, and crime. Full details can be found here.

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