Scotland’s independence referendum: here’s what our survey says Lib Dem members think

by Stephen Tall on September 17, 2014

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 735 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Scotland votes this Thursday in its independence referendum. We asked our sample of Lib Dem members for their views and here’s what we found…

62% of Lib Dem members say we’re Better Together

Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom?

    15% – Support independence
    22% – Neither support nor oppose
    62% – Oppose independence
    1% – Don’t know

The result is very similar to our survey in April: almost two-thirds of Lib Dems oppose independence for Scotland, with 15% supporting it and close on one-quarter neutral. Only 45 of those who completed the survey are members of the Scottish Lib Dems, but among those the majority against independence was even more pronounced: 79% opposed with 19% in support and only 2% neutral.

Lib Dems reckon independence unlikely to win by 2:1 majority

How likely or unlikely do you think it is that Scotland will vote to become independent in the referendum on 18th September?

    3% – Very likely
    18% – Fairly likely
    Total likely = 21%
    43% – Fairly unlikely
    3% – Very unlikely
    Total unlikely = 46%
    22% – Neither likely nor unlikely
    11% – Don’t know

The polls might be tight, but by a 2:1 majority – 46% to 21% – Lib Dems think it unlikely the Scots will vote for independence. However, a substantial minority simply don’t know or think either outcome is equally likely.

59% of Lib Dem members think Scotland will be left divided after Thursday if Yes wins

If there is a YES vote in the referendum, which of the following do you think is more likely?

    32% – People on both sides will generally accept the result and work together for the best outcome
    59% – There will be a lot of remaining bitterness towards the opposing side and the country will be left divided
    3% – Neither
    6% – Don’t know

Not a huge amount of optimism among Lib Dems that Scotland will emerge stronger for this national debate: 59% think the country will be left divided compared with 32% who think Scotland will pull together.

83% of Lib Dems back further devolution of powers from Westminster

If voters in Scotland choose to remain within the United Kingdom, what would you like to see happen next?

    6% – No change to the current constitutional position
    3% – Further devolution of powers ONLY to Scotland
    83% – Further devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England
    7% – Other
    1% – Don’t know

Not much of a surprise here to see Lib Dem members – 83% of you – enthusiastically backing further devolution of powers from Westminster to more local arrangements.

Here’s a selection of your comments…

• I’m British. I live in Scotland. Independence will mean I lose the main part of my identity!
• It would be a crazy leap into the constitutional, economic, financial and cultural dark, most likely would cause serious austerity and the poorest would suffer most. Nationalism is a most illiberal creed.
• I’m a federalist and an internationalist, separation doesn’t fit anywhere in my political values.
• I’m voting by post, but I haven’t filled out my ballot paper yet. Enjoying the debate.
• Beter Together has had the best arguments but the worst campaign. yes Scotland the reverse.
• But only just. I have been wavering this week as there is a clear Liberal reason for wanting a smaller state, but Alex Salmond’s comments about Team Scotland v Team Westminster were so offensive to me they pushed me back to a firm No.
• I believe we are better together.
• A lot of the issues that people have regarding Westminster are in fact problems seen on a global scale. Corrupt politicians can be found worldwide and are not solely exclusive to London.
• But not on the basis proposed by the SNP. Clarity needed on currency, EU, NATO etc
• A Federal UK with Home Rule for Scotland has 71% support in Scottish polls. A Federal UK needs England as a Federal State. You can sort out how to govern England once you have that framework. Wake up England! Don’t let UKIP do it for you!
• The goal of independence leaves me unenthusiastic and the question strikes me as ‘liberalism neutral’. But, to oppose change, even a second-best option like independence, would serve only to strengthen the status-quo against any and all change. Federalism included.
• I would love to know at what point “Keep Scotland in the Union” was voted for as party policy.
• We need to pull down borders and celebrate unity, not divide nations
• I was a member of the Steel Commisssion and The campbell Commission. We must continue to advocate federalism even if asymetric with the UK. Stange to hear Gordon Brown and Nigel Farage each support that proposition by implication or explicitly.
• I would like to see a Pan-UK federal settlement.
• If we don’t grasp federalism now we wont get anotehr chance for a generation!
• This is the precursor of a fundamental review of the constitution with a view to a proper federal sate with a written constitution.
• massive changes in the way benefits are administered, leading to exclusion of private sector providers from the provision of public services
• A fully federal UK with England having its own parliament with the same powers as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The English Parliament could then decide whether to devolve further to cities, counties, regions etc.
• England should have its own parliament to put it on a equal footing with the other home nations.
• As a Scotsman I believe that as well as granting further devolution granted to the rest of the UK, we should form an English parliament to end the undemocratic process of non-english MPs voting on purely English matters.
• Further devolution is not federalism. It’s a cause of increasing frustration that so many Liberal Democrats use these terms interchangably.
• A Federal UK based on its historic nations including Cornwall, and if they ever join the UK the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles.
• If we try to do Wales, NI and England at the same time nothing will happen. They can follow along some other time.
• Further devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and the Regions of England. Northern Ireland is always going to be a special case and should be handled separately to avoid derailing the peace agreement. If only a united Ireland were on the cards.
• Devolution to various areas – no reason for “The North” to be excluded.
• More powers to Scotland as a matter of greater urgency because of the democratic mandate but steps towards a federal UK

  • 1,500+ Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 735 completed the latest survey, which was conducted between 12th and 16th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.