It’s an often repeated theme of anti-UK nationalism (the SNP in Scotland especially) that there is a popular demand from the UK public to break up the UK. They bleat repeatedly in a monotone like sheep ‘The Union is dead’ in a sad attempt at creating the impression that the UK will inevitably break up. They have to maintain this fiction as any look at the objective, verifiable, empirical facts (data and statistical evidence) gives the conclusion that in ALL parts of the UK, a clear and often substantial majority of the public want to keep the UK together.
Separatist polling in Scotland
The idea that the nationalists have a mandate for independence from ANY election, Westminster, devolved executive (Holyrood) or local council is THE major fallacy of elections for Scottish constituencies. The fact is, that the SNP has NO MANDATE FOR INDEPENDENCE AND NEVER HAS, EVER.
The bottom-line fact of UK Constitutional Law is that under the devolution ‘settlement’, a Holyrood election CANNOT deliver a mandate for independence, as the Constitution is a reserved matter, irrespective of what’s in a party’s manifesto, or that independence is their reason for existing.
The Scottish Parliament can deliver a mandate for a party to form a devolved administration at Holyrood and look after Scotland’s day-to-day matters ONLY (i.e. all matters that aren’t reserved for Westminster’s consideration), but that’s all. But let’s indulge the SNP and take a very close look at its claims to have a mandate for independence through receiving a majority of votes from the public in elections (Westminster, Holyrood or local council).
The plain truth is that the SNP has neve received a majority of votes from the entire registered Scottish electorate (4,243,800 people), just a simple majority of those that did actually vote. Added to this, that simple majority has never even reached 50% of those that voted, and indeed usually came in at around a third of the total registered electorate.
Winning a majority of seats in Holyrood, and a majority of seats in Scotland at Westminster doesn’t give the SNP any mandate for independence when they only represent around a third of the total registered electorate, and where the vast majority of opinion polls on independence in Scotland continue to show a majority for Scotland staying in the Union.
And, of course, the largest poll ever conducted on Scottish independence, the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, had 84.6% turnout and was decisively won by pro-UK voters, with 55.3% voting against the break up of the UK and 44.7% voting for, despite constant lies from separatists and the media that the vote was ‘close’.
Separatist polling in England
There has been talk, from both Scottish nationalists and some English nationalists as well as pro-English Parliament advocates, that the English are disaffected with the Union, and either want to break it up, don’t care if it does break up, or want an English Parliament. The facts contradict this assertion and show the opposite is true in reality.
For example, a major poll, conducted by Panelbase, which polled 3,981 people across the UK between June 18th and July 2nd, 2021, determined that 56% of voters in England believe there should not be another Scottish referendum in the next few years, and 54% want Scotland to remain in the UK.
Several other opinion polls in England have also found that there is a majority for staying in the Union. For instance, nearly half of people (48%) said they considered themselves British above any other identity, with only 3 in 10 disagreeing. British identity was the strongest in England (51%) then Wales (46%). This conclusively shows that the English nationalist assertion that the English now want to break up the Union is not backed up by the facts.
53% of those who voted to remain in the EU and 47% of people who backed leaving in the 2016 referendum also saw themselves first and foremost as British. A total of 56% said the UK remaining united was ‘very important to me’, with only 15% disagreeing.
Fewer than 1 in 5 (19%) of people said the UK would be better off if Scotland voted for independence, with 42% disagreeing. Nearly 4 out of 10 (39%) opposed a second Scottish independence referendum, with only 32% saying one should be held.
Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy of trying to annoy the English so much that they would let us whining Scots go, a majority of English voters still understand that Scotland is integral to the UK.
In the 2021 Census, we find that petty nationalism is on the decline, with The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) Census data on national identity in England and Wales showing that English-only identity is decreasing, while British identity increases: (2).
- More than half of the usually resident population of England and Wales, 54.8% or 32.7 million people, indicated that they were of solely ‘British’ national identity, a rise of 35.8% since the 2011 Census.
- Conversely, the opposite trend was witnessed in the ‘English only’ category, which fell massively by 42.8% from 57.7% in 2011 to 14.9% (32.4 million people) in 2021.
Regarding English identity in England specifically:
- 56.8% of people selected a ‘British’ only identity (an increase from 19.2% in the 2011 Census).
- 15.3% of individuals selected an ‘English’ only identity (a decrease from 60.4% in 2011).
Note: The SNP in Scotland decided to run a census separately from the rest of the UK and inevitably, it turned into an embarrassing (for the nationalists) show of incompetence, in how NOT to do it. Initial results (pertaining to population size) were released in September this year, but the results relating to national identity will not be available until the summer of 2024. Consequently, no analysis and comment can be made at this juncture. This article will be updated at that time.
Separatist polling in Wales
A comprehensive new survey has determined that the overwhelming majority of Welsh people reject independence. The ‘State of the nation Survey’ is conducted annually by YouGov for WalesOnline and asks thousands of people what they think of Welsh independence and Mark Drakeford’s devolved Labour administration.
The major finding of this survey is that the vast majority of people in Wales reject independence. In 2022, 7,510 people responded to this question and of these, 63% said they didn’t think Wales should be independent of the UK, with only 28% saying it should. This is a notable diminution of support for independence, which stood at 30% in this survey the previous year.
In 2022, to the question ‘How well do you think the Welsh Government serves the interests of Wales?’, 49% of the 7533 responses thought that Labour leader Mark Drakeford’s devolved Welsh administration served the interests of Wales ‘not very well’, compared with 28% that answered ‘somewhat well’ and 22% that said, ‘very well’.
When asked ‘Is enough (or too much) [power] devolved to Wales?’ there were 7,501 responses. Both yes and no received 38% each, with a slight 23 votes in favour of ‘too much’ and to the question ‘What single thing could be done which would make a big difference to Wales’ future?’, ‘abolishing devolution’ was a featured reply.
Separatist polling in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, a major new academic survey has found that over three-quarters of those who do not vote in elections support remaining in the UK. The study, carried out by Social Market Research of 2000 people for the University of Liverpool questions the assumption that how people vote in elections is necessarily reflective of how those who turn out in any potential referendum to remove Northern Ireland from the UK, will vote.
In a report setting out the findings, the lead author of the research project, Professor Jon Tonge, said: ‘In terms of a border poll, election results may be a less accurate a guide to the desire for reunification, especially when it is considered that 76.9% of non-voters who stated a preference are pro-Union.’ Overall, the survey found 53.5% of respondents support remaining in the UK, rising to 65% when those who said they don’t know, expressed other preferences or refused to answer are excluded.
These findings are backed up by another major poll, which found that a clear and substantial majority of people want Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. ‘The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey’ (NILT), was carried out between October 8th and December 8th 2022 and surveyed 1292 adults aged 18 or over. The polling was organised by both the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast.
NILT has determined that just under 53% of voters in Northern Ireland would opt to stay with the UK in a referendum on unification with the Republic, but that less than a third of those surveyed backed unification and that support for Northern Ireland remaining in the Union was popular across the communities, with substantial support for staying in the UK coming from Roman Catholics.
9% of those surveyed fell into the ‘undecided’ category when asked if Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic or remain in the UK. Based upon the poll’s results, even if all the undecideds eventually decided to opt for reunification, the pro-unification figure would still only be 39%. It was also determined that a majority of those who profess no religion also support staying in the UK (48%) with 32% of those in the same category backing unification.
Dr Peter Shirlow, a social demographer and head of Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies has stated that the NILT findings were consistent with other polls showing a cross-community majority against a united Ireland, adding:
There have been at least six household surveys now conducted [in Northern Ireland] since 2016 by the University of Liverpool, Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster Unionist. All these surveys show majority support [in Northern Ireland] for remaining in the UK, a significant share of Roman Catholics who support remaining in the UK and no growth in the very small proportion of Protestants who want Irish unification. These robust and rigorous surveys clearly indicate there is no evidence that would support the calling of a border poll.
Dr Shirlow has also described calls for a border poll and Irish unity from nationalists as:
a fast-growing souffle, given that when you see survey after survey showing a united Ireland is not imminent then you have to conclude, there may be something hollow in the middle.
He went on to point out that the NILT poll was conducted at a time that should have been ‘an optimum moment’ for those ‘seeking Irish unification’, stating:
Brexit, the protocol and the massive effort made by civic nationalist groups has led to a small growth in those who support unification, yet this was supposed to be the game changer…If you take out those who do not express an opinion, then we are looking at 65% for the union and 36% for Irish unity.’
The 2021 Census also shows a clear majority for British identity (3):
- 42.8% (814, 600) of people living in NI described themselves as ‘British’ (i.e. they identified with the UK mainland).
- 33.3% (634, 600) who said they were ‘Irish’ (identifying with the Irish Republic).
The conclusion is straightforward: Across the entire UK, the objective facts, in the form of an actual referendum, opinion polls and surveys, show there is a consensus that UK citizens reject separatism and want to keep the UK together. Witht he decline of the SNP and nationalism in scotland, those number will only increase. And that is a reason to be cheerful about the future of the UK.
Stephen Bailey is a pro-UK author who has written over 150 articles on the Constitution, especially as it concerns Scotland and the abolition of legislative devolution. His website is here.
Sources, footnotes and further reading:
(1) Click on the following links for further information concerning opinion polls on independence (in Scotland and Wales) and re-unification in Northern Ireland:
(a) Scotland: For a list of opinion polls on independence in Scotland, click here:
The vast number of these polls show a majority of Scots want Scotland to stay in the Union.
(b) England and Wales: A Panelbase poll (conducted in 2021) established that of the 3,981 people surveyed, 54% of the English respondents wanted Scotland to remain in the Union and 56% said there SHOULD NOT be another independence referendum held there.
A UK-wide 2020 Savanta ComRes poll found that 51% of English residents stated that their identity was ‘British’ rather than English and 46% of Welsh residents also stated this. The poll also found that 48% of all UK citizens (in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) also considered themselves as of British identity only. Click on the following link for fuller details:
(c) Northern Ireland (NI): See the following links for fuller details of surveys and polls on re-unification in NI:
(2) To read the full 2021 Census dataset on national identity in England and Wales, click here:
(3) Please click on the following link to read full dataset of the 2021 Census in Northern Ireland: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/system/files/statistics/census-2021-main-statistics-for-northern-ireland-phase-1-statistical-bulletin-national-identity.pdf
Further reading: For a fuller examination of the question of the SNP, devolved elections and mandates: https://www.facebook.com/story.php/?id=100069007906425&story_fbid=615311897445735