Sunday, June 24, 2012

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey : contrasting fortunes for what Michael Moore presumes to call "Scotland's two governments"

The latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has delivered a crushing blow to the coalition government's claim to be one of "Scotland's two governments", with 71% of respondents saying they trust the Scottish government to act in Scotland's best interests, compared to a mere 18% who say the same about the London administration. In my view, Cameron's relationship with Scotland is now in a kind of "Thatcher death-spiral", and if those figures change much between now and 2014, it's likely to be for the worse (for him). So this is great news with a view to the independence referendum - the Yes side can again and again pose the question "who do you trust to take the right decisions for Scotland's economy/military/welfare system?", and if the answer is the Scottish government rather than London, the conclusion for voters to draw will be obvious.

Unless, of course, Labour start looking like the kings over the water, who can provide an alternative to Toryism without independence. That perception would naturally be an illusion - either because Labour would go on to lose the election as they did in 1992, or because they would win and then rule in a Tory-lite way as they did between 1997 and 2010. But the mere perception of a meaningful Labour alternative has been enough to trap Scots in the 'one more heave' mentality many times before, so as much as it pains me to say it, the chances of a Yes vote may well hinge on a Tory recovery in the UK-wide polls. It also pains me to say that will probably happen.

Intriguingly, for the first time respondents were evenly split on which administration has the most influence on how Scotland is run right now - in the past Westminster has always come out on top on that question. But this could be something of a mixed blessing. As a pro-independence English academic said to Eddie Mair the other week, it's possible that if Scots overestimate the extent to which key powers have already been devolved, they might not fully appreciate that much more progress needs to be made to protect the country from the excesses of right-wing Tory/Lib Dem rule.

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