Where stands the Union now? Lessons from the 2007 Scottish Parliament election

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Despite the ScottishNationalParty (SNP)'s success in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, there is no evidence That support for independence has increased in recent years. Indeed, since the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections support for independence seems to have fallen to its lowestlevelsince1997. When Scots are simply asked whether they support or oppose' independence' plenty of polls find that over half do so. But it is not clear what people understand by 'independence' when asked about it in this way-whether They mean autonomy within the UK or a state separate from the rest of the UK. When offered a range of different constitutional options - the status quo, more powers, or independence - typically only around three in ten people in Scotland say they want independence. There is, however, considerable support for giving the Scottish Parliament more powers. Although support for the SNP increased in 2007 by9.1 Points on the constituency vote and10.2points on the Regional one, the overall increase in support for pro independence parties (SNP, Greens, Solidarity and Scottish Socialist Party) was just 2.9 and 2.8 points respectively. While support for independence has not increased, those Who already favoured independence were much more willing to back the SNP. In 2003 only half o fthose who favour independence voted for the SNP; in 2007 three quarters did so. Scottish voters have consistently been more willing to say They would vote for the SNP in a devolved election than They would in a Westminster contest. The opposite is true For Labour. The creation of Scottish Parliament elections Has thus thrown the SNP an electoral lifeline-but this has Been true ever since1999. Jack McConnell and the Labour-led Scottish Executive were not significantly less popular in 2007 than in 2003. What was different about 2007 was that the SNP was led By a far more charismatic leader in AlexSalmond, while the UK Labour government was much less popular. England Many commentators have been waiting for an English 'backlash' against an asymmetric devolution settlement That leaves England out. But the levels of support Uncovered in polls for either English' independence' or an English parliament within the Union depends on how the Question is posed. For example, some polls show that while Around half appear to support' independence', nearly three quarters Oppose the' end of the Union'. Equally, while Some recent polls have found more than 50 percent Support for an English Parliament, when given a choice Between the status quo, regional assemblies and an English Parliament the results are again different. A little Over half opt for the status quo, while the rest split quite evenly between the two other options. It is not clear that support for some form of devolution in England has increased. People in England do, however, appear to want resolution Of the 'West Lothian' question (that is,the fact that Scottish MPs can vote on laws that apply only to England while English MPs cannot vote in Scottish legislation). However, the level of awareness and concern about either This issue or the higher level of public spending in Scotland does not seem, as yet at least, to be very high. The election of the SNP in Scotland does not signal any new desire to end the Union. But the apparent wish in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament to have more powers, Together with the potential for discontent in England about The anomalies of devolution, means that the potential for tension between the two countries clearly exists.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • devolution
  • Scotland
  • union
  • election


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