Anthony King set the question, in line with the SNP’s proposed ‘softly softly’ approach. Rather than seeking honestly the Scottish people’s assent to break up the United Kingdom, the party will propose a mealy mouthed formulation about ‘negotiating a settlement with Westminster‘. King observes that in rejecting this proposition,
“most Scots regard the idea of a referendum on Scottish independence as an irrelevant bore and that, if any such referendum were held in the near future, it would be overwhelmingly defeated".
Indeed only one in eight Scots named a referendum as one of the top two priorities on which Holyrood should concentrate.
Salmond is well aware that his Referendum Bill will not gain the assent of the Scottish Parliament. His strategy is to use its defeat as a springboard for the general election, during which he will portray the SNP as the party prepared to give the electorate its say on Scotland’s constitutional future.
This survey indicates that there may be less leverage in these tactics than Salmond hopes. It also demonstrates that a referendum would kill stone dead, for a generation, the notion of Scottish independence.
Perhaps the brave response from unionists would be to grant Mr Salmond his separatist poll, on the understanding that it poses an honest question to the electorate and that the answers are restricted, simply, to ’Yes’ or ’No’.