THE publication of 20 polls in a row showing majority support for independence over eight months last year was a welcome boost to the Yes movement.

Since then the lead has dipped, with the most recent opinion surveys showing an even split or the No side edging ahead.

Now a new report published by the Common Weal think tank has delved behind the headlines to try to find trends in why support for independence is increasing or decreasing among certain groups.

Here we look at some of the key findings from the report.


THE reversal of rising pro-independence support which began in January this year meant half the gains for the Yes side over the past two years was wiped out in six months, the report notes.

While it is difficult to pin down what caused the dramatic shift, it outlines a number of potential reasons.

One includes the end of the Brexit transition period – which may have led to concerns about disruption at the Anglo-Scottish border post-independence. Others who see leaving the EU as a success may be watching to see how it progresses.

“Essentially, the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaign failed and thus independence must be campaigned for on its own merits,” the report states.

It notes Covid is another factor which has to be taken into account, suggesting repeated lockdowns and a failure to control the pandemic may have dented confidence in the Scottish Government, while the roll-out of the vaccine could have boosted support for the UK Government.


ONE issue with polling is that it does not more closely examine the attitudes of “New Scots”, even though this data should be considered vital for an independence campaign, the analysis says.

The trends which can be pinpointed show Yes support among Scotland-born voters has dropped by 1.7%, falling from 50% immediately after the independence referendum to 48.3% in 2021.

Among the group of voters born outwith Scotland and England, there is a “general upwards trend”, with average support for independence in 2021 sitting at around 52%, compared to 43% against and 4% undecided.

The report notes this could be due to the impact of Brexit, which has “drawn especially EU citizens into the UK’s Hostile Environment”.

Support among English residents living in Scotland has also been rising steadily, with an average of 33.1%, and reaching as high as 42%. This is compared to 22% immediately after the 2014 referendum.


MEN aged over 55 have gradually reduced their support for independence, while the highest backing has generally been among younger men aged between 16 to 34, regularly reaching 70%.

The most “volatile” age group in terms of support is males in the 34-54 age bracket.

Among women, the report notes older women appeared to turn against the idea of independence in the wake of the Brexit referendum, raising the possibility this was because two major constitutional changes occurring at the same time was seen as “too much”.

Since then support has gradually risen in this age group, but has dipped from the beginning of 2021.

The highest support for independence was found among younger females in January 2021, with backing for Yes at 73% and No at just 18%. However, the report notes this has not been maintained.


THE most scepticism of independence has been in the group of voters who fall into the ABC1 social grades – generally people employed in “white collar” jobs.

However, the report notes it is this group that has accounted for the most recent variations in backing for Yes.

“It seems that the 2020 pro-independence peak was almost entirely due to the shift within the ABC1 group but, crucially, so has been the 2021 retraction,” it states.

“This suggests that the ABC1 group is potentially persuadable by external events (such as Brexit) and therefore possibly also persuadable by a targeted campaign.”

It also cautions that any independence win which relied on securing a narrow majority from a group of “volatile voters” could lead to divisive and divided politics similar to the fallout triggered by Brexit.

The C2DE category – which includes “working-class” jobs and the unemployed and retired – has been a relatively stable pro-independence group of voters, but is less likely to turn out to vote.


THE analysis also looks at independence among voters of different parties in Scotland – however, using more useful UK General Election data means the Scottish Greens have been omitted.

The highest level of support for independence next to the SNP can be found among Labour Party voters, with around one in four backing Yes. Immediately after the 2014 referendum, polling suggested this was as high as 40%, but it fell back to around or less than 20% until the EU referendum when support began to rise again.

LibDem voters are by far the “most volatile” when it comes to independence, with a spike in support around the time of the Brexit vote falling back within months.

A second surge in support was seen from mid-2018 to the start of 2020 when up to one in three LibDem voters voiced backing for Yes, which coincided with the most intense Brexit negotiations and the UK formally leaving the EU.

By mid-2020, just 10% of LibDem voters said that they would support independence.