By Lord Ashcroft
Events that change the world sometimes have little apparent effect on politics. At first glance, this is the case with the covid pandemic and the scene in Scotland, according to my latest research.
The independence debate continues to sit on a knife-edge. In my 2,000-sample survey, the 51-49 margin for staying in the UK amounts to a statistical dead heat. To the frustration of many voters on all sides who would rather talk about something else, the question still dominates the agenda: nearly as many people say they will use their votes next week to prevent a new referendum as to try and secure one.
Not only does the SNP maintain its clear lead in the Holyrood elections, its support is more intense: those naming the nationalists as their most likely choice put their chances of actually turning out to vote for them higher than those of other parties’ potential backers.
Nicola Sturgeon herself is more dominant than ever. As her newly appointed rivals (and the perennial Willie Rennie) struggle to make an impression, the First Minister’s handling of the pandemic has enhanced her standing even among her critics. Many praise the clarity of her daily briefings and draw a contrast with Boris Johnson (whom many Scots cannot quite believe has become Prime Minister), even if the more cynical praise “her commitment to being on TV every day,” as one focus group participant archly put it (more…)