It shouldn’t be forgotten just how dramatic a break this UK government has made with decades of British democratic tradition. Until Theresa May, every British Prime Minister since Harold Wilson had made clear that Scotland could leave the UK if it voted to do so. Now we’re told that’s there is no longer any democratic route to independence for decades to come, and that no matter how many times we vote to hold an independence referendum, our decision will simply be ignored. Perhaps fittingly for an administration led by a proponent of “cakeism”, though, the Tories still seem to expect Scottish voters to punish Nicola Sturgeon for using the rather appropriate word “prison” in relation to the UK. That’s the paranoid language of the wild nationalist fringe, we’re told, and must be denounced by any right-thinking person.
I actually give voters more credit than that. I don’t think they’re going to allow the Tories to have it both ways – if the UK isn’t a prison, where are our democratic rights? So I decided to take the opportunity of this blog’s Panelbase poll to test Scottish public attitudes about what the denial of a Section 30 order means for the state of UK democracy. The results are nothing short of damning.
The UK government has said that it will not allow the Scottish Parliament to call an independence referendum even if the SNP win an outright majority of seats in next year's Scottish Parliament election. In light of that decision, which of these two statements is closest to your own view of democracy in the UK?
The UK is no longer a fully democratic country: 49%
The UK is still a fully democratic country: 39%
With Don’t Knows removed, approximately 56% of respondents say that the UK is no longer fully democratic, and only 44% disagree. Remarkably, as many as 14% of respondents who would vote No in a new referendum appear to feel that the denial of a Section 30 has implications for democracy.
I don’t think it should be underestimated how big a warning sign these findings are for the Johnson government. The UK is not Spain, and it’s doubtful whether the London commentariat will turn a blind eye forever if the penny really starts to drop that Scotland isn’t remotely relaxed about the way its democratic decisions are being disregarded. Once consciences start to prick about Scotland-the-colony, a few holes may appear in the wall of intransigence that we’re currently faced with. And even if that doesn’t happen, it’ll clearly be a lot easier for Nicola Sturgeon to take the radical steps that will then be necessary if the Scottish public understand the nature of the democratic deficit that has to be addressed.
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Before I published last night's blogpost, I sent it over to Panelbase to be checked. They had no problem with what I'd written, but they did make the point that there was no direct evidence in the datasets as they stood to either support or disprove my theory that a significant minority of current No voters must think that Brexit is a big enough change of circumstances to justify another independence referendum. So to find out one way or the other, they very kindly expanded the datasets today, and it turns out that 10% of people who would currently vote No think that Brexit justifies a new indyref.
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There's still one more installment from the poll to come (probably tomorrow), so if you'd like to be the first to know about the remaining results, you can follow me on Twitter HERE. You can also read articles I've written about the poll earlier in the week for The National HERE and HERE.