BORIS Johnson has been "central" in driving up support for independence, according to the UK's leading pollster.

Professor Sir John Curtice told an online seminar that the Prime Minister was among the reasons why support for Scotland becoming an independent country had increased, with a series of polls putting backing for Yes at more than 50%.

"It follows from my explanation as to why we are where we are that Boris Johnson is the crucial dramatis personae," he said.

"Boris Johnson is the person who is most strongly associated with the Leave campaign, apart from Nigel Farage. 

"Boris Johnson is the person who delivered Brexit and Boris Johnson is the person who is presiding over dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in a manner that has got the thumbs down north of the Border.

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"So the truth is that Boris Johnson has played an absolutely central role so far in stimulating support for independence in Scotland, and I invite Unionists to draw their own conclusion therefore as to how helpful his continued presence as UK Prime Minister would be if we were indeed to have another referendum."

Sir John, who is a professor of politics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow and a senior research fellow at NatCen, was speaking at a seminar run by the Institute for Government earlier today.

Andrew Wilson, the author of the SNP's Growth Commission, Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Chair in Law at Queen Mary University of London and Law and Public Affairs Fellow at Princeton University and Jess Sargeant, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government were the other members of the panel.

The event was chaired by Akash Paun, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government.
During the discussion Curtice added that in terms of the economy, overall voters in Scotland were more concerned about the consequences of Brexit than they were about independence.

“One of the things the Yes side failed to do in 2014 was to persuade a majority of people in Scotland that the economic consequences of independence would be beneficial and it is almost undoubtedly the key reason why the Yes side didn’t manage to win,” he said.
He added there had since been a change in public opinion in Scotland with the economic issue complicated by Brexit.

“Whatever people’s views are on the consequences of independence, they are much more likely to think that Brexit will be an economic disadvantage than they are with independence,” he added.

Wilson said that at an orderly approach to an independence referendum was really important in part to ensure Scottish independence would be recognised by the EU, which it hoped to rejoin as an independent member.

“The more the intransigent the UK sounds and behaves, the more support for independence is likely to increase.”

On the economic case to stay in the UK, Wilson said the arguments made ahead of the 2014 referendum were “no longer cutting through” with voters in Scotland.

He said: “If we think about the economic performance of the UK, it has fallen down the league table from first – a hundred or so years ago – to 21st in the IMF rankings now.

“On the OECD this year it will be the worst performing in Europe so the broad shoulders are not performing.”

And on Scotland’s economic performance inside the UK, he added: “The real argument is can you do better?”