Scottish independence: Referendum debate ‘tearing families apart’

Nearly half of households are divided on the nation’s future and many fear a rift will remain

The Scottish independence debate has become venomous and fraught that arguments about the outcome are pulling some families apart, new research suggests.

Nearly half (42 per cent) of all Scottish families are divided on whether the country should become independent, a new poll has revealed.

The ICM poll also found that 21 per cent admitted that discussions about how they should vote in the independence referendum had degenerated into rows with friends or relatives.

The poll, for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, also exposed significant fears that Scotland would remain divided after September’s referendum.

Of the 1,003 people surveyed, 38 per cent thought that divisions would remain whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Some 36 per cent disagreed when asked if Scotland would be left “badly divided”.

The poll results came at the end of a week in which the independence debate seemed to have turned particularly vicious.

J K Rowling, the Harry Potter author, was subjected to online abuse for declaring her support for the Better Together campaign, and Clare Lally, a mother-of-two, who declared her opposition to independence, said she had been reduced to tears by insults on social media websites.

Campbell Gunn, the SNP leader Alex Salmond’s special adviser, also had to apologise to Ms Lally, after emailing a newspaper to challenge the description of her as “an ordinary mum”.

It has now been reported that police are to investigate some of the abuse directed at Ms Rowling, who in her blog explaining why she supported the Better Together campaign suggested some nationalists  obsessed with Scottishness were “death eaterish” – a reference to the villains in her novels.

Commenting on the results of the poll, the Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “After the week of abuse directed at two inspirational women who happen to be voting No, it’s little surprise that Scots fear a divided nation.

“Our campaign offers people in Scotland something we can all unite around.

“We want Scotland to have the best of both worlds – an even stronger Scottish Parliament, with more powers for Scotland, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK.”

Yes Scotland’s chief executive Blair Jenkins, however, denied that pro-independence campaigning had been divisive.

He said:  “We are committed to a positive, quality, respectful debate. Sixty-two per cent of people disagree with the idea of division or have no view – similar findings could, of course, be generated by an ordinary election campaign – and there is a consensus and determination right across the spectrum that we will come together as Scotland united after the referendum.”

The ICM poll also detected a slight increase in the number of people supporting independence, with those planning to vote in favour now standing at 36 per cent, up two percentage points on last month.

The proportion of people opposing independence fell by three percentage points to 43 per cent, while the undecided voter grew by one point to 21 per cent.

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