The UK’s top political forecaster has claimed the SNP’s anti-Brexit stance has dented the party’s prospects of an independent Scotland.
Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the issues of Brexit and Scottish independence had become more closely aligned, which makes the cause for an independent Scotland “more difficult rather than easier”.
Speaking at The Courier Business Briefing, in association with Fairways, at Apex City Quay yesterday, he said people’s views on Europe made little impact on how they voted in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
However, Brexit had caused support for independence to become fractured.
He said: “The problem for the SNP is that independence is now much more clearly linked to the idea of remaining inside the EU, particularly because the SNP has come out in favour of a second EU referendum.
“It does mean their ability to retain the support of leave voters becomes more difficult and the net effect is we are still at yes 45%, no 55%. We are still short of the majority the SNP are seeking.
“They have gained some people but lost others but because the issue of Brexit now fractures the independence movement, it has arguably made their task of getting over the 45% and up to the 50% mark is more difficult rather than easier, for the time being at least.”
Sir John said the most recent polling suggested the Scots remainers were split evenly on the issue of Scottish independence, while Brexit supporters were 2-1 in favour of retaining the Union.
Sir John also outlined the difficulties facing the Prime Minister in getting a Brexit deal through the House of Commons.
He said she was faced with either changing the arrangements for the Northern Ireland backstop or pursuing a softer Brexit.
“What looks difficult is coming up with a change to the backstop she can get the European Union to offer that would be acceptable to the DUP, acceptable to enough Brexiters that together with a bit of support of the Labour party she could get it through,” he added.
“That’s what she’s trying to achieve but the European Union don’t look as if they are keen on budging.
“The alternative potential path, which the Labour party are clearly not saying no to, is that she goes for a softer Brexit, a Norway style arrangement.
“Quite possibly there is a majority for that in the House of Commons.
“The trouble is it’s a majority that is based on a bit of the Conservative party and much but not all of the Labour party and as a result both parties split.
“Against that backdrop although the Prime Minister may have got the Withdrawal agreement through and rewritten the political declaration whether or not she is still in a position to sustain a Government is another matter.”
More than 80 people attended the breakfast event which also included a Q&A session with panellists Andrew Stirling, owner of Stirling Potatoes and Stirfresh; Caroline Millar, of The Hideaway Experience in Auchterhouse and Ian Collins, the Bank of Scotland’s area director and president of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce.
Liz Jackson, managing director of Fairways, said: “The event gave an excellent overview as we continue on the countdown to Brexit.”