Is Scottish secession a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’?

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HIDDEN in the depths of the most recent Ipsos-Mori poll report are clues to a key trend, overlooked by others, which suggests the Scottish secession from the UK is more a case of ‘when’ than ‘ if “.

The poll for STV News showed support for Scottish independence to be 55%, with ‘No’ at 45% after weeding out the undecided. This is the highest level since the Holyrood election in May.

Reading the report was uncomfortable for many trade unionists, who were quick to view the poll as “an outlier”. Since May, other polls have shown a small lead in favor of the union.

Nationalist tactical vote

Data from the Ipsos-MORI poll shows that 16% of voters in the SNP constituency intend to vote for the Green Party on regional lists in the upcoming Holyrood election in 2026.

While 68% of voters on the green list will vote for the SNP in the constituencies.

These figures cry out for “tactical voting”.

The poll did not ask which party respondents supported, but simply asked which party respondents intended to vote in constituencies and regional lists in 2026.

At the risk of stating the obvious, whatever. What matters is the trend.

Based on this trend, the poll indicates that the Greens can hope to win 6 more seats in 2026.

At the Scottish Conservative Party conference earlier this year, Ruth Davidson confidently announced to party supporters that Scotland had ‘passed Nat peak’. The reality is quite different, however.

Salmond’s last bet

Holyrood’s electoral system was designed to prevent a party from obtaining an overall majority.

But there is a major flaw in the system. For all intents and purposes, two different battles are fought. The first is in the constituencies, the second in the regional lists.

Alex Salmond wasn’t the first to realize that the system can be “played” to produce a “super majority”, but he was the first to try it.

For example, in May, 1.3 million people voted SNP in constituencies giving 62 constituency seats, while around 1 million people voted SNP in the lists, giving only 2 more seats.

This is how Alex Salmond launched, to the surprise of many, the Alba Party for the May elections. His aim was to exploit Holyrood’s electoral system and secure a nationalist “super majority” as a step towards IndyRef2 and independence – which he said was not taken seriously by the SNP.

The green creep

Under the Holyrood system, a “super majority” is possible, but Salmond’s party flopped with less than 2% of the list vote. The immediate reaction was to focus on Salmond’s personal issues as the reason – but a significant factor that had yet to be identified for his failure was what you might call “the green drift.”

Since 2011, there has been a clear correlation between a decline in support for the SNP in regional lists (relative to their constituency vote) and an increase in the green list vote and seats won.

In 2011, the SNP list vote was 97 percent of its SNP constituency vote share. The Greens won 2 seats.

In 2016, the SNP list vote represented 90% of its voting share in the SNP constituency. The Greens won 6 seats, up from 4.

This year, the SNP list vote was 85 percent of its SNP constituency vote share. The Greens won 8 seats, up from 2.

Voting intentions in the Ipsos-MORI poll predict that in 2026 the SNP will win 81% of the SNP constituency’s vote in the list and that the Greens could win 14 seats, up 6.

Concretely, if this poll is indeed an “outlier”, it does not matter.

What matters is that this 10-year trend clearly shows that support for the SNP in the lists has declined while support for the Greens in the lists has increased – and we can expect this to continue in 2026. .

What if this continued until 2031 and beyond?

Indeed, the poll suggests that many nationalist voters may have decided to vote on the SNP / Green ticket long before, if not years before, Salmond launched his hapless Alba party.

Obviously, Alex Salmond didn’t do his homework and established his potential “voter pool” before launching his party. If he had, he would have known what the result would have been.

Although opinion polls are expensive, they are much, much cheaper than running a Scotland-wide political campaign which ultimately won less than 2% of the national vote.

The Unionist’s Nightmare Scenario

The big takeaway, however, is the very real prospect of a nationalist “super-majority”.

Now that the SNP and the Greens are in coalition, would they form an electoral pact for 2026?

The SNP and the Greens could agree to run respectively in the constituencies and the regional lists. It would be a game-changer to say the least – and could be a disaster for the union.

With an electoral pact, the Greens have the potential to dominate the regional list vote in the same way the SNP dominates the constituency vote.

To provide a bit of context, consider the election last May if there had been a “Nat Pact” in place.

If all the voters in the SNP constituency had actually voted for the Greens, they would have won 36 seats. Combined with the SNP’s 62 constituency seats, the Nationalists would have a total of 98 MSPs.

The Conservatives would be on the 16th, Labor on the 11th and the Liberal Democrats on the 4th, according to election polls.co.uk.

This is obviously a hypothetical scenario because all the voting intentions would change, but by how much? Voters consider 3 main criteria for voting: party leader, policies and party brand (what it stands for).

Considering Sturgeon’s personal rating compared to his opponents; the SNP government’s overall performance score; and, the popularity of the SNP party brand (especially among voters under the age of 55) I suspect the SNP need not worry.

Given the 14 years of Unionist party experience, well, again, the SNP need not worry.

Establishing a nationalist “super majority” in the foreseeable future is a very real possibility.

So the obvious question must be asked: If you were Nicola Sturgeon, what would you do?

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