Scottish independence: More Scots identify as British since referendum announced


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The Independent Online

The prospect of Scotland leaving the UK has led to a marked decline in the number of people describing themselves as Scottish, according to research published today.

In a blow to the campaign for independence, the annual Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows that over the last three years a sense of Britishness has been rekindled among Scots.

When asked to choose one single national identity, the number of people who answered “Scottish” has fallen from 75 per cent in the 2011 survey to 65 per cent now. Those who said they regarded themselves as British increased from 15 per cent to 23 per cent over the same period.

Asked to rank their Scottishness against their Britishness, only 26 per cent said they were "more Scottish than British", the lowest figure since the survey was first completed in 1992, when it stood at 40 per cent. The most popular answer was "equally Scottish and British”, with 32 per cent saying this description best fitted them.

A report published alongside the survey suggested that the Scottish independence referendum, due to be held on 18 September, may already have had an effect on national identity. An existing trend for people to say they were British as well as Scottish “continued further when people began to be faced with the prospect that Scotland might actually leave the United Kingdom”, it said.

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and co-director of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, said the referendum may have rekindled a “residual sense of Britishness” in some Scots. “A prospect that actually there’s going to be a referendum in which Scotland could vote to leave the UK has perhaps helped at the margins to stimulate some people to say: ‘I am primarily Scottish, but I’d like to be British as well’,” he said.

The research also highlighted the increasing gender divide on the issue. Only 27 per cent of women now support independence, compared with 39 per cent of men – a gap which has doubled in the space of a year.

Overall, the number of people intending to vote yes has increased from 36 per cent in 2013 to 39 per cent now, once undecided voters are excluded. Yes Scotland pointed out that this meant support for independence was at its highest level since 2005.

“Two other polls in the past week have shown support for yes as high as 47 per cent – including the snap poll conducted after last week’s debate, which also showed support for independence slightly higher among women, at 48 per cent,” a spokesman said.

However, the research also found that since the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012, when a referendum on independence was agreed by the Scottish and Westminster governments, the proportion of voters who think leaving the UK would be damaging for Scotland’s economy has risen from 34 per cent to 44 per cent.

The Better Together campaign said this showed the need for Alex Salmond to inform voters of his “Plan B” if an independent Scotland was unable to enter a currency union on the pound with the rest of the UK. The First Minister has said the country would continue to use the pound “come what may”, as it was internationally tradeable.

Margaret Curran, shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “This survey shows that the key issue for families in Scotland is the economy. That is why the question of currency is so vital. It is about more than just the notes and coins in our pockets. How can we plan for the future if we don’t have any idea what currency we would be using?”

The research was carried out by the independent institute ScotCen Social Research, which questioned 1,339 adults in Scotland in May and July this year.