Independence referendum: It’s the 'Braveheart tendency' vs the women of Scotland

The vote takes place in a year’s time. Jane Merrick, Jonathan Brown and John Rentoul report on the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns

A “Braveheart tendency” is leading to more men backing independence for Scotland than women, one of the most senior Scots in the British government says today.

As new analysis of opinion polling reveals there is a growing gender gap in support for the break-up of the United Kingdom, Jo Swinson, the Glasgow-born Employment minister, says some men take a “macho view towards Scotland the brave”.

With this week marking exactly a year to go until the referendum, David Cameron will today warn that Scotland’s independence would transform the UK’s “family of nations” into a relationship of “second cousins, once removed”.

Analysis by The Independent on Sunday of the three most recent polls, for YouGov, Angus Reid and TNS BMRB, shows that more men back independence than women by a margin of 12 percentage points – up from a three-point gap in August 2012. Fewer men than women support the union staying together by a margin of seven points. Polls have shown that Alex Salmond is less popular among women than men. The Scottish National Party has tacitly acknowledged this, by pushing forward Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, in debates about independence. Generally speaking, women could be less inclined than men to favour a major shake-up, and vote on a less emotional basis.

In an interview with The IoS, Ms Swinson acknowledged the gender difference in the polls and added: “There’s a variety of reasons that drive what people think of independence. There’s a sector of the population that takes a quite macho view towards Scotland the brave, almost like a Braveheart tendency.

“I think that that particular view of independence tends to be more prevalent among men than women, and it’s still a fairly small minority of the population – I think the debate on independence is not just on those grounds... It seems to be more men than women, and you’ve also got your Cybernats, as they’re called – quite an aggressive online presence about independence which seems again to be male-dominated.”

Ms Swinson, whose constituency is East Dumbartonshire, warned that families risk being pushed apart if Scotland votes “yes”: “We have so many families that cross the border – brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, parents – why suddenly create that separation? I think that would be unnecessary.” She added: “It is absolutely the most important vote that I will cast in my lifetime, and I am sure that goes for my parents as well. Because, if we were to vote ‘yes’, that’s for keeps. I don’t want to have to choose between feeling Scottish and British.”

Her words are echoed by the Prime Minister: “In a year from now, people living in Scotland will be making a choice which could radically change their country for ever. Scotland’s future will be in Scotland’s hands.

“We are a family of nations within one United Kingdom. Now is not the time to reduce that relationship to one of second cousins, once removed.”

Mr Cameron points out that 18 September 2014 is “Scotland’s date with destiny. The best of Scotland and the best of British – or a leap into the unknown?”

The SNP claimed last night that there are signs that women could switch to the “yes” campaign as the months go on. The party’s research has found that more undecided women, and young Scots, are moving towards “yes” than “no”.  The SNP also said that it was ahead among families with children. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said the position remained “remarkably stable” with all the major polls since July indicating that there were 59 per cent in favour of the union and only 41 per cent backing independence.

“What you discover is that where people have a strong sense of British identity, they are likely to vote no. Where they have a weak sense, it is more likely to be yes,” he said.

Yet there is the potential for a number of game-changing moments in the 12 months before the nation is asked to decide the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Next Saturday, more than 10,000 people are expected to march through the centre of Edinburgh in support of severing sovereign ties with London.

The “yes” campaign will be playing on the prospect, in 2015, of a second general election going Mr Cameron’s way, which would consign Scotland to another five years of unwanted Tory rule unless it went its own way.

In the meantime, supporters of the “no” option – particularly Labour – could well consider wooing support by offering greater powers to the Scottish Parliament should the opinion poll gap start to narrow. The major parties have all set up commissions looking at devolution powers.

A critical moment will occur in November when the SNP unveils its white paper on an independent Scotland, which offers a blueprint for life after Westminster. The First Minister will be hoping this begins to shift the numbers in favour of what he describes as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to divorce the rest of the UK.

But there seems little chance of a head-to-head debate between Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond, and it is claimed that many of the most prominent figures in Scottish civil society are proving reluctant to join the debate. While Sir Sean Connery might be a long-time supporter of independence, other celebrity endorsements are thin on the ground.

Billy Connolly said he was remaining neutral and urged other comedians to do the same, while Emma Thompson, who lives half the year in Scotland, is against independence.

Mr Salmond, who enjoys the backing of the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialist Party, might also be hoping that Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles next year could fuel waves of nationalism.

In the event of a “yes” vote, Scotland would remain in the pound and retain the Queen as head of state. The question of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, currently based at Faslane and which Mr Salmond has said he will remove from Scottish soil, remains among the most problematic.

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland which supports independence, said there are a number of policy areas that could swing the vote: “Issues of identity are playing only a small part in the debate. It is about what kind of country we want to live in and what kind of economy we want to be part of.

“We offer a notion of a fairer society. People want a stronger sense of social justice, to protect public services, prevent marketisation of the NHS – this is what is determining the debate. It is about the daily nitty- gritty of real life – not a dry, abstract theoretical argument.”

However, Blair McDougall, campaign director of Better Together, an alliance of Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats, said he was “confident but not complacent” in the face of the opinion polls. He said that of the four million strong electorate up to 1.5 million had yet to make up their minds.

He said the independence campaign had been forced to change tack after discovering that an appeal to Scots identity was not enough to win. But Mr McDougall denied that the “no” campaign was playing on people’s fears. “Our slogan throughout has been that you get the best of both worlds – that a Scottish Parliament delivers for Scotland, backed up with the strength of being part of a bigger economy,” he said.

Countdown to referendum

25 January 2012 The independence referendum consultation “Your Scotland, Your Referendum” was launched on Burns Night.

15 October 2012 David Cameron and Alex Salmond sign the Edinburgh Agreement, pledging to work together to ensure the referendum goes ahead.

30 January 2013 Scottish government accepts the referendum question will be “Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No.”

12 March 2013 The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill extends the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds.

21 September 2013 Edinburgh is setting for big pro-independence rally.

October 2013 MSPs will take part in the final debate of the referendum Bill before a vote to approve it.

November 2013 Royal Assent anticipated for referendum Bill.

November 2013 Publication of referendum White Paper.

Summer 2014 Sixteen weeks before the referendum will see the start of the campaigning period regulated by the Electoral Commission.

August 2014 Pre-referendum period – government promotional material is banned before actual vote.

18 September 2014 The people of Scotland will vote in independence referendum.

May 2016 If Scotland votes “yes”, this is the predicted date for the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament.

Lottie Morley

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn