Both England and Wales oppose Scottish Independence – but the English favour a harder line with Scotland

Press Release
19 August 2014 01:00–20 August 2014 00:59

New research shows that while people in both England and Wales oppose Scottish independence, they have rather differing views about what should happen after the independence referendum on 18th September. People in England want a hard line to be taken with Scotland, whatever the outcome of the referendum. Those in Wales are inclined to a more conciliatory approach, particularly to an independent Scotland in the event of a Yes vote.

These are among the key findings of work conducted by researchers at Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities. Working alongside the leading polling agency YouGov, they consulted a representative sample of 3695 adults in England and 1027 in Wales. The surveys were undertaken in late April 2014.

Views on a ‘Yes’ scenario

England and Wales share equal levels of opposition to Scottish independence. When asked the exact Scottish referendum question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 61% of Welsh respondents said No, compared to 19% who favoured a Yes (with 21% answering Don’t Know). These figures are almost identical to those for England: 59% No, 19% Yes and 22% Don’t Know.

But opinions differ between the two nations on how Scotland should be dealt with if it does vote Yes:

  • English opposition to the idea of an independent Scotland sharing the pound is much more emphatic than that in Wales. Opponents of this idea in England, at 53%, outnumber supporters (23%) by well over two to one. In Wales the balance of opinion is much more even: 36% favour Scotland being able to use the pound, while 44% oppose it.
  • The English tend to oppose the idea that the rest of the UK (rUK) should support an independent Scotland in applying to join the EU and NATO. Barely a quarter (26%) agree that ‘The rest of the UK should support Scotland in applying to join international organisations like the EU and NATO’, while 36% disagree. In Wales, by contrast, the balance of opinion leans to a more cooperative position, with 34% agreeing that rUK should support Scottish membership, while slightly fewer (32%) disagree.
  • Those in Wales are also marginally more favourable to the Scottish Government’s idea of an open border between an independent Scotland and England. In Wales, 73% of respondents agree that “People should be able to travel between England and Scotland without passport checks” if Scotland votes Yes, with only 12% against, compared to 69% support and 13% opposition in England.

Views on ‘No’ scenario

These clear differences of view between England and Wales on what should happen after a Yes vote are also paralleled, to some extent, in attitudes about how a No result should be dealt with.

  • By an overwhelming margin of more than five to one (62% agree, 12% disagree), English voters believe that, following a No vote, ‘Scottish MPs should be prevented on voting on laws that apply only in England’. While the majority in Wales take a similar position, the balance of opinion (53% agree, 19% disagree) is much closer.
  • There is also rather weaker Welsh support for the idea that levels of public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the UK average following a No vote. In England, some 56% of respondents agreed with this proposition, while only 9% disagreed, a more than six-to-one balance of opinion. In Wales, 48% agreed with the idea, while 12% disagreed.

Interestingly, however, the balance of opinion in England and Wales is much more closely aligned with regard to the future of devolution in the event of a No vote. Voters in both England and Wales are inclined to support greater autonomy for a post-No Scotland. For instance, 42% of people in England support the idea that ‘The Scottish Parliament should be given control over the majority of taxes raised in Scotland’, something that only 25% disagree with; the respective figures in Wales are near identical (42% agree, 26% disagree). The two nations also have very similar views on the devolution of welfare benefits: 44% of respondents in Wales agree that ‘The Scottish Parliament should be given the power to decide its own policies on welfare benefits’, with only 27% disagreeing; in England the figures are again similar, with 40% of English voters supporting welfare devolution and 26% disagreeing.

Researchers Comments

Commenting on the research, Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University said:

“It’s interesting that while there is almost no difference in the views of people in England and Wales about what they wish to see happen in the Scottish referendum, there are clear differences in how people wish to see the aftermath dealt with. Put bluntly, the English are more inclined to want to play hard-ball with Scotland. Those in Wales are notably more cautious about this, and more favourable to a more conciliatory approach.”