Scottish Independence Referendum & Westminster Voting Intention (2-5 March 2023)

March 8, 2023
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | GB Politics | GB Public Figures | Scottish Independence | UK Elections | UK Politics | Voting Intention

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Following the shake up in Scottish politics brought on by Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies will be launching a monthly tracker in Scotland. In the first edition of this now monthly tracker, our Scottish independence referendum voting intention finds ‘no’ leading by 9%

Altogether—with changes from 26-27 November in parentheses—51% (+6) of Scottish respondents say they would vote ‘no’ and 42% (-7) say they would vote ‘yes’ if there were to be a referendum tomorrow on whether Scotland should be an independent country. 8% (+3) say they don’t know how they would vote.

Support for Scottish independence is strongest among younger Scots. Majorities of 16-to-24-year-olds (64%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (51%) say they would vote ‘yes’ for independence. Only 28% of those aged 65+, by comparison, would vote ‘yes.’ Those who voted for the Scottish National Party (76%) in the 2019 General Election are significantly more likely than those who voted Conservative (8%) or Labour (24%) to say they would vote ‘yes.’

On the question of whether and when a second referendum should take place, 49% (+6) would oppose a referendum on Scottish independence being held in the next year, while 34% (-12) would support one in this timeframe.

Given a broader timeframe of five years, the result is similar: 44% (+4 from November) would oppose and 37% (-9) would support a referendum on Scottish independence being held in the next five years

Critically, on the possible conditions for holding a second independence referendum, a plurality (41%) agree—against 33% who disagree—that a second independence referendum should only be held if the UK Government agrees to it.

Moreover, Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Jack has previously suggested that the calling of a second independence referendum should be conditional on public opinion polls consistently showing that 60% of Scots want one. A plurality (46%) of Scots voters agree with this proposed condition, including 48% of likely SNP voters in a General Election.

If a second referendum were to be held in Scotland in the next six months, 30% (-13) of Scots say they would expect the ‘yes, for independence’ side to win, whereas 49% (+10) think the ‘no, against independence’ side would win. 21% (+3) of respondents say they don’t know who would win if a referendum were held in the next six months.

Pluralities of Scottish voters say neither adopting the Euro (41%) nor creating a new currency post-independence (41%) would make them more or less likely to support Scottish independence. 

22% say if Rishi Sunak were Prime Minister at the time of a referendum it would make them more likely to support independence, although 50% still say it would make them neither more nor less likely either way. Likewise, 52% say if Keir Starmer was Prime Minister at the time of a referendum it would also make them neither more nor less likely to support independence.

Regardless, the next major election on the horizon for Scottish voters is the next General Election across the entire United Kingdom.

When voters are asked who they would vote for if a UK General Election were held tomorrow, the Scottish National Party leads Labour by ten points. The Conservative Party, which finished second to the SNP in Scotland in 2019, is in third place. Altogether the results of our Westminster Voting Intention poll (with changes from 26-27 November in parentheses) are as follows:

Scottish National Party 39% (-2)
Labour 29% (-2)
Conservative 22% (+6)
Liberal Democrat 6% (-2)
Green 2% (–)
Reform 2% (–)
Other 1% (–)

Overall, Labour is the most favourably viewed party in Scotland, with a net favourability rating of +10%.

The SNP (-1%), meanwhile, has dropped 13-points from our previous poll in November and is the second most favourably viewed party. All other parties hold negative ratings, with majorities holding unfavourable views of Alba (55%) and the Conservative Party (56%).

71% of Scottish voters cite the economy as one of the three most important issues that would determine how they would vote in a General Election, ahead of the NHS (63%). 

In November, Nicola Sturgeon declared that the next General Election would be treated by the Scottish National Party as a de facto referendum on independence. Yet, only 21% of respondents cite Scottish Independence/The Union as one of the three issues that would most determine their vote if a General Election was held tomorrow. 

Even among likely SNP voters Scottish Independence is only the third most commonly selected issue (43%) behind the NHS (58%) and the economy (60%).

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak receives a net approval rating of -15%, with our poll finding 42% (+7) of Scots disapprove of his overall job performance against 27% (-4) who approve. In our previous poll in November, Sunak held a net approval rating of -4%.

Sunak’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, is viewed even more negatively. 40% (+1) disapprove of Hunt’s performance as Chancellor, compared to 17% (-7) who approve, giving him a net approval rating of -23% (-8).

Furthermore, a majority of Scots (60%) say the current UK Government is incompetent. Only 15% view the Government as competent.

On its policy performance, Scottish voters give the government negative net approval ratings on every policy issue listed, including on the NHS (-54%), the economy (-48%), and housing (-42%).

By contrast, Labour leader Keir Starmer’s net approval rating in Scotland stands at +10%, down one point from our previous poll. 38% (+3) of Scottish voters approve of Starmer’s job performance, against 28% (+4) who disapprove.

When asked who would be a better Prime Minister between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer for the United Kingdom at this moment, 42% of Scottish voters say Keir Starmer and 24% say Rishi Sunak. 34% say they don’t know.

The next Scottish Parliamentary Election is currently a distant prospect, not being due until May 2026.

However, when voters are asked who they would vote for if an election to the Holyrood parliament were held tomorrow, the Scottish National Party leads in both our constituency and regional list voting intention polls. Altogether the results of our Holyrood constituency voting intention poll (with changes from the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election in parentheses) are as follows:

Scottish National Party 40% (-8)
Scottish Labour 29% (+7)
Scottish Conservatives 20% (-2)
Scottish Liberal Democrats 7% (–)
Scottish Green Party 2% (+1)
Reform UK Scotland 2% (NEW)
Other 1% (–)

When asked how they would vote on their regional list ballot, the SNP is first on 29% (down 11 points from the 2021 election), with Labour in second on 26% (+8), and the Scottish Conservatives on 20% (-4).

Of Scottish party leaders, the Conservatives leader in Scotland, Douglas Ross, holds a net approval rating of -23%, down two points from November. The Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, meanwhile, suffers a seven-point drop in his approval rating, to now stand at +4%.

With regard to the Scottish Government, 42% approve (-7) and 40% disapprove (+7) of outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s overall job performance since she became Leader of the SNP. Her net approval rating of +2% is 14-points lower than her previous approval rating of +16% in November last year.

A plurality (43%) say the current Scottish Government is incompetent, compared to just 32% who say it is competent—a remarkable reversal from November, when a plurality had said the Scottish Government was competent.

While earning favourable approval ratings on some issues—including coronavirus (+40%) and the environment (+5%)—the Scottish Government earns mostly negative ratings for its policy performance, including for its handling of the economy (-10%), the NHS (-16%), housing (-17%) and of it’s drug policy (-23%).

45%, furthermore, disapprove of the Scottish Government’s performance on Scottish independence, compared to 30% who approve.

Asked which of the SNP leadership candidates would be the best First Minister for Scotland, 25% of Scottish respondents say Kate Forbes, 18% say Humza Yousef, and 14% Ash Regan. Above all, 44% say they don’t know which of the three would be a better First Minister.

Among those who voted for the SNP in the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections, 27% think Yousef would be a better First Minister, 21% say Forbes, and 13% Regan.

30% of all Scottish voters say they would support—and 24% say they would oppose—Kate Forbes becoming First Minister, while more say they would oppose either Regan (25%) or Yousef (32%) replacing Sturgeon as First Minister than say they would support either candidate (18% and 22% respectively).

Altogether, a majority (58%) of Scottish voters’ say they support Sturgeon’s decision to resign, against only 18% who oppose it. Support falls to only 41% among likely Scottish National Party voters at the next General Election, while majorities of all other major parties likely voters support Sturgeon’s decision to resign.

66% say the way they would vote in an independence referendum is unaffected by Sturgeon’s resignation. 13% say they are now more likely to vote ‘yes’ for independence since Sturgeon resigned, while 11% say her resignation makes them less likely to vote ‘yes.’

Equal proportions of Scottish voters think Sturgeon’s resignation makes it less likely that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom (39%) and that her resignation will make no difference (39%) to the likelihood of separation. Only 7% think her resignation makes Scotland more likely to leave the United Kingdom.

Finally, large majorities of Scottish voters say the likelihood of them voting for the SNP in a UK General Election (63%) or a Scottish Parliamentary Election (62%) is unaffected by Sturgeon’s resignation.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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