UK faces ‘existential challenge’ after support for Scottish independence and Irish reunification reach highest ever
The UK faces an “existential challenge” a senior political scientist has said after a new report showed that support for Scottish independence and in Northern Ireland for Irish reunification are at their highest ever.
Prof. Sir John Curtice said that the latest publication of the British Social Attitudes survey showed that Brexit had created divisions about the governance of the UK across the nations.
The British Social Attitudes survey, which is in its 39th edition, showed that support for being part of the UK in Northern Ireland had slipped to slightly below half at 49%, while support in Northern Ireland for Irish reunification has increased from 14% in 2015 to 30% now.
Meanwhile, 52% in Scotland favour independence, the highest ever number found by the survey. This is up from 23% in 2012, when the UK government agreed to the independence referendum that was held two years later.
The report drew on the Scottish Social Attitudes and Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, and carried out additional pan-UK polling in addition, but did not poll Welsh independence.
It found that Brexit has played a role in shifting attitudes towards the constitution, with some Remain voters reacting to leaving the EU by now wanting to change the rules under which the UK is governed.
65% of Remainers in Scotland now back Scottish independence, up from 44% in 2016.
In 2016, 64% of people in Northern Ireland who voted Remain were in favour of being part of the UK. Now only 37% are.
The BSA report noted: “Since 2014, there has been a marked increase in the level of support for independence, and especially so since the EU referendum of 2016, after which leaving the UK became more popular than devolution for the first time.
“Against this backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising that Scotland’s constitutional status should have become an issue of lively debate once more.
“The Union has certainly become decidedly less popular north of the Border.”
Senior political polling expert Prof. Sir John Curtice said that the aim of the survey was to track long term changes in attitudes towards constituational change.
“This is not asking if Scotland should be an independent country yes or no, it is this long-term question, and the point about that, therefore, is we can show how attitudes have shifted over a long time period,” he told the National Scotland.
“The 52% is as high as it has been on that question.
“The fact that half the people in Scotland might want to leave the United Kingdom does pose the United Kingdom a bit of an existential challenge.
“The point is what has been happening in Scotland is not unique to Scotland, and in a sense, shows it is part of a wider story which shows how Brexit has created divisions about the governance of the UK that go beyond Scotland.”
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