Scottish Independence Referendum & Westminster Voting Intention (26-27 November 2022)

November 30, 2022
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | GB Politics | UK | UK Elections | UK Politics | Voting Intention

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One week after the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Government cannot hold an independence referendum without the UK Government’s approval, Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest Scottish independence referendum voting intention poll finds ‘yes’ leading by 4%.

Altogether—with changes from 18 September 2021 in parentheses—49% (+5) of Scottish respondents say they would vote ‘yes’ and 45% (-2) say they would vote ‘no’ if there were to be a referendum tomorrow on whether Scotland should be an independent country. 5% (-4) say they don’t know how they would vote.

Support for Scottish independence is strongest among younger Scots: 62% of 16-to-24-year-olds, 57% of 25-to-34-year-olds, and 52% of 35-to-44-year-olds say they would vote ‘yes,’ compared to 36% of those aged 65 and above. Further, those who voted for the Scottish National Party (81%) in the 2019 General Election are significantly more likely than those who voted Conservative (17%) or Labour (34%) to say they would vote ‘yes.’

On the question of whether and when a second referendum should take place, 46% (+12) would support a referendum on Scottish independence being held in the next year, while 43% (-7) would oppose and 9% (-5) would neither support nor oppose this prospect. 

Given a broader timeframe of five years, the result is similar: 46% (+5 from September 2021) would support and 40% (-2) would oppose a referendum on Scottish independence being held in the next five years. 11% (-4) would neither support nor oppose a referendum being held within this timeframe.

If a second referendum were to be held in Scotland in the next six months, 43% (+8) of Scots expect the ‘yes, for independence’ side would win, whereas 39% (-3) think the ‘no, against independence’ side would win. A not inconsiderable 18% (-5) 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 the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (39%), the energy crisis (38%), and the cost-of-living crisis (37%) have made them more likely to vote YES on Scottish independence.

Most Scottish voters say the constitutional upheaval caused by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascendancy of King Charles III to the throne has not had an effect on how they would vote in an independence referendum. Majorities say the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II (64%) and Charles becoming King (65%) has made no difference to them either way. 

Critical to how Scottish may vote in an independence referendum are their views of political leaders both locally and down in Westminster.

49% approve (+2) and 33% disapprove (–) of Nicola Sturgeon’s overall job performance since she became Leader of the SNP, resulting in a positive net approval rating of +16%, a two-point improvement on her approval rating in September last year.

The leader of the SNP in Westminster, Ian Blackford, holds a positive net approval rating of +4%, a 13-point improvement since our previous poll. Altogether, 35% (+10) approve of Blackford’s job performance, 31% (-3) disapprove, and 22% (-8) neither approve nor disapprove.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak receives a net approval rating of -4%, with 35% of Scots’ disapproving of his overall job performance against 31% approving. In September last year, Sunak, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had a net approval rating of +3%.

Sunak’s own Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, is viewed more negatively. 39% disapprove of Hunt’s performance as Chancellor, compared to 24% who approve, giving him a net approval rating of -15%. A further 30% neither approve nor disapprove of his job performance, a reflection—as may also be the case with Sunak—of the willingness of a sizeable chunk of voters to allow him some more time in office before passing judgement.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s net approval rating in Scotland stands at +11%, an impressive 30-point improvement on the rating of -19% he held in September 2021. 35% (+16) of Scottish voters approve of Starmer’s job performance, against 24% (-14) who disapprove. A still sizeable section of the respondents (35%, -3) neither approve nor disapprove of Starmer’s performance. 

Asked their view on the UK Government, a majority of Scots (63%) say the current UK Government is incompetent, a view shared by majorities of every age group. 

On its policy performance, Scottish voters give the government negative net approval ratings on every policy issue listed, including on housing (-35%), the economy (-48%), and the NHS (-48%).

Voters view the Scottish Government more favourably. A plurality (44%) say the current Scottish Government is competent, compared to 37% who say it is incompetent.

Nevertheless, while earning favourable approval ratings on some issues—including coronavirus (+38%), the environment (+16%), and cultural issues (+9%)—the Scottish Government earns mostly negative ratings for its policy performance, including for its handling of the economy (-3%), the NHS (-7%), and housing (-12%).

43% disapprove of the Scottish Government’s performance on Scottish independence, compared to 40% who approve. 

The SNP is the most favourably viewed party in Scotland. 46% of respondents view the party favourably, against 34% who view it unfavourably, giving the party a net favourability rating of +12%. The Labour Party (+8%) is the only other party listed to hold a positive net favourability rating.

All other parties hold negative ratings, with the Conservative Party holding the lowest net favourability rating of -38%. A majority of 58% view the Conservatives unfavourably, while only 20% have a favourable view of it. 

When asked which would be a better Prime Minister between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, 40% of Scottish voters choose Keir Starmer and 30% choose Rishi Sunak. 29% say they don’t know.

30% say if Rishi Sunak were Prime Minister at the time of a referendum it would make them more likely to support independence—an increase from the 16% who said so in August 2021, when he was Chancellor. 11% say Sunak being Prime Minister would make them less likely to support independence.

Altogether, 26% say Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister has already made them more likely to want to vote Yes.

On the other hand, 23% say Keir Starmer being Prime Minister would make them more likely to support independence against 17% who say they would be less likely to support independence with Starmer in charge.

Slightly more Scots say the increasing likelihood of a Labour Government has made them more likely to vote no (23%) than say it has made them more likely to vote yes (20%).

And so, when Scottish 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, falls to third place, overtaken by Labour. Altogether the results of our Westminster Voting Intention poll (with changes from the 2019 Election in parentheses) are as follows:

Scottish National Party 41% (-4)
Labour 31% (+12)
Conservative 16% (-9)
Liberal Democrat 8% (-2)
Green 2% (+1)
Reform 2% (+2)
Other 1% (–)

A plurality (38%) of Scottish voters believe a Labour Party majority (in the United Kingdom) would be the most likely outcome if a General Election were held in the next six months. Just 14% expect a Conservative Party majority. A further 13% expect a Labour-led minority Government, and 8% expect a Conservative-led minority Government.

75% 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 (61%). 

Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement last week—in the wake of the UK Supreme Court’s decision—that her Government would treat the next UK General Election as a “de facto referendum” on independence, only 29% 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 (50%) behind the NHS (62%) and the economy (72%).

On the possible conditions for holding a second independence referendum, a plurality (43%) agree—against 39% who disagree—that a second independence referendum should only be held if the UK Government agrees to it.  

Last year, Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Jack 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 (47%) of Scots voters agree with this proposed condition, including a majority (52%) of likely SNP voters. 

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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