Thursday, 2 February 2012

No appetite for Welsh independence

The big surprise in the latest poll by ITV Wales is that the majority of Plaid Cymru voters don’t want independence even if Scotland has gone it’s separate way. 

The poll indicates that even with Scotland being independent  only a third (33%) of Plaid voters would want an independent Wales, with 42% preferring to stay in the UK with more power devolved to Wales. This would tend to vindicate the line of both Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Simon Thomas in the current Plaid leadership contest.
When asked about Scottish independence the majority polled thought that Scotland would be worse off (47%) with less than a quarter thinking that the Scots would be worse off (23%). The rest either didn’t know or thought it would not make a difference.
If Scotland became independent many thought Wales would be worse off. Only 12% thought that Wales would be better off 31% thought that the country would be worse off, but over half either didn’t know or thought it would not make a great deal of difference.
But when asked how Wales should be governed if Scotland became independent only 10% thought Wales should become independent. Those wanting Wales to have more powers had a slight edge (32%) on those that wanted the existing situation to remain (30%)
On voting intention Labour still have a commanding lead in Wales and the Liberal Democrats still see their vote hemorrhaging away.

Nationally the latest polls show a one point Labour lead. ComRes’s monthly telephone poll for the Independent has top line figures of CON 37%(-1), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 14%(+2). Meanwhile the daily YouGov poll for the Sun has top line figures of CON 39%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%.

Clearly the two major parties are running neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats trailing  but the ComRes poll is giving them a slight boost.

The difference between voting intentions in Wales and England become very clear when comparing the Welsh poll with the latest ones for England. 

Labour will be very pleased with themselves with the Wales results but will have a lot less to smile about with the national polls.

The gap between Labour and Conservative is obviously the same (and seems to be very typical of recent polls showing the two main parties pretty much neck-and-neck.) There is more contrast with the Lib Dems: YouGov normally give the party their lowest scores, the 14% from ComRes is one of their better scores of late from a non-ICM pollster.
The poll details and ITV Wales’s commentary are below.
Suppose Scotland became independent from the United Kingdom

Scotland would be better off: 23%
Scotland would be worse off: 47%
No big difference/don’t know: 30%

Wales would be better off: 12%
Wales would be worse off: 31%
No big difference/don’t know: 57%

England would be better off: 21%
England would be worse off: 28%
No big difference/don’t know: 52%

How should Wales be governed in a UK without Scotland?

No devolved Welsh Government or National Assembly: 17%
Fewer powers for Welsh Govt and National Assembly:   3%
Remain in the UK on same basis as at present: 30%
More powers for Welsh Govt and National Assembly: 32%
Wales becomes independent from the United Kingdom: 10%
Don’t know: 7%

The present settlement was of course approved in a referendum in March last year. Back then, our polling found just 17% wanting more devolution than was on offer, including 6% support for independence. A year later –and if Scotland left the UK- that’s 42%, including 10% for independence. The 17% for ending devolved government and scrapping the Assembly is the same as last year.

Opinion varies depending on which political party people support. If Scotland leaves the UK, most Labour supporters either want to stick with the present settlement in Wales (36%) or favour more powers short of independence (39%).

For 40% of Conservative supporters, Scotland leaving the UK would be the time to end devolution to Wales and scrap the Assembly, 30% would leave things as they are.

Even with an independent Scotland, only a third (33%) of Plaid voters would want an independent Wales, with 42% preferring to stay in the UK with more power devolved to Wales. These figures are based on how people would cast their constituency votes in an Assembly election.

That brings us to how people say they would vote if there was an election now.

Assembly Constituency Vote (May 2011 result in brackets)

Labour 49% (42%)
Conservative 20% (25%)
Plaid Cymru 17% (19%)
Lib Dem 7% (11%)
Others 7% (3%)

Assembly Regional Vote (May 2011 result in brackets)

Labour 45% (37%)
Conservative 20% (23%)
Plaid Cymru 15% (18%)
Lib Dem 7% (8%)
Others 13% (15%)

At first glance, that shows Labour up and the other parties down, compared with the result last May. But today’s figures are very close to the poll we published the day before the Assembly election. (Those figures are shown on the spreadsheet). Once we adjust for differential turnout there has been very little change since May 2011.

Turnout is less of an issue at Westminster elections and here our poll shows a big increase in Labour support –and a big drop for the Lib Dems- since May 2010.

Westminster Vote (May 2010 result in brackets)

Labour 50% (36%)
Conservative 25% (26%)
Plaid Cymru 11% (11%)
Lib Dem 6% (20%)
Others 9% (7%).


  1. It'd be interesting to know what SNP voters think of independence for a comparison.

    To say PC voters have no appetite is wrong. Im a PC member, dont want independence NOW but see it feasible in a decade- once we have structures in place, Welsh economy improves etc,

  2. I don't believe the case for independence - for Wales to be a sovereign state - has EVER been made to the people of Wales, by Plaid Cymru or anyone. How therefore can we be surprised if the apparent level of support for it is not that high?

    It won't be very long before the case WILL be put to the people, if Plaid members have the courage to elect the right leader.

    I have no doubt which of the four it should be, and I'm confident that she will be elected.

    The SNP and Salmond are making the case for Scotland right now, and support for it is increasing daily, with the assistance of messrs Cameron and Miliband et al.

    Plaid has been navel-gazing for nine months, far too long in my opinion, and consequently I'm not surprised at the slip in its support since last May. That will soon be reversed once the right leader is in place.

    It's also significant that a sizeable number of Labour supporters want more powers post-Scottish independence, despite the anti-devolution rhetoric of many in the party. I expect that number to rise significantly when they realise that they will be facing an indefinite period of very right wing Tory government in London. There will suddenly be a lot more nationalists west of Offa's Dyke - and they won't all be in Plaid, but in the other parties.

    As for the Tories, what can one say? It's basically an English party which views Wales as an adjunct, or an irrelevance, or even a colony for the likes of John Redwood to govern.

    These are interesting times. I believe we will witness the break up of the Union during the next ten years, and all the four nations will be the better for it.

  3. In contrast please read & digest:

  4. The worry is that the longer this threat of independence or otherwise hangs over us the more we appear to the rest of the UK (meaning England) as an unreliable bed-fellow. And an unreliable bed-fellow doesn't make for happy inward investment, large-scale capital projects, new company formations, long-lasting job creation schemes and the like.

    I say we need the debate now and we need it to be over once and for all by 2015. We should put up or shut-up once and for all.

  5. @kp

    Do you mean capital projects like the Pembroke 1 power station? A station which this year will turn south wales into a net exporter of electricity, even though we pay amongst the highest electricity bills in the UK?

  6. "For 40% of Conservative supporters, Scotland leaving the UK would be the time to end devolution to Wales and scrap the Assembly, 30% would leave things as they are."

    interesting, so Tory supporters would basically chuck their toys at Wales as punishment for Scotland leaving. That is deeply worrying, if people really think that sort of thing. How utterly self centred. Probably the same colonialist sentiment that says the Scots shouldn't be allowed a vote on their own sovereignty.

  7. Doesn't independence entail a process rather than an actual event taking place?

    The really interesting stuff in the poll is once you put independence aside and look at the next steps for Wales.

    I am surprised Gareth is surprised because opinion polls consistently show Plaid's supporters don't want independence! It is not new. I'm not even sure whether I would be tempted to answer "independence" if phoned for such a poll, because surely we need other things to happen in the process before independence? It's a goal to be attained rather than a simple event that might take place.

  8. WR

    "Doesn't independence entail a process rather than an actual event taking place?"

    It's both a process and an event.

    Perhaps 'journey' is a better description than 'process'. I agree with you when you say (on your blog) that Scotland and Wales have started from different places.

    Independence is as much to do with 'mindset' as it is with political reality. Plaid has to address the former more than the latter. If we believe the unionists, Wales will always be too samll, too weak, too poor, and its people too stupid to govern themselves. They would have us believe that among the peoples of the world we are unique in that respect. The British elite said it of the Irish, and now the Scots.

    Many countries achieved sovereignty with less in terms of national institutions and structures than Wales already posesses. Ideally these structures would already be in place - but in most instances they are not. There are many examples, the birth of the US being one, but there are scores of others. If we wait for everything to be prepared for independence, it won't happen.

    Therein lies the gulf between the male the female candidates for Plaid leadership. If DET or ST are elected Wales will move forward (or backward) at a pace dictated by Labour and/or the government at Westminster, of whatever right of centre complexion it happens to be.

    No country has achieved independence using that way. Name one, if you can. It is like waiting for a train that never comes, or if it comes, it won't be going to the desired destination. It is the politics of excuses.

    Independence has to be DRIVEN forward, if it is to be achieved at all. There are lots of examples from Ghandi in India to Salmond in Scotland.

    Often it is achieved by brute force, and sometimes by democratic decision, but almost always vehemently or violently, opposed by the governing power. No state allows secession to take place without a hard struggle.

    That is not to say that IN the process of driving towards independence that national consolidation can't or shouldn't take place.

    Wales has made modest, though significant, steps in the right direction but in reality power devolved is power retained. Westminster still calls the shots.

    If we wait for Wales to become prosperous enough to AFFORD independence it will NEVER happen. Wales gets more dependent by the day.

    Most former British colonies were too poor to become independent because they were colonies. They had to achieve independence in order to break out of the vicious cycle of dependency.

    I agree that independence is a goal, but must be THE goal for Wales. Plaid's task is to devise the strategy, clear and unequivocal, for achieving it. It entails leading from the front, rather than exerting a weak pressure from the rear. The role of the leader is pivotal.

    It is the lesson that pro-independence leaders historically from across the world have taught us - they must possess the vision themselves and believe it, if it is to be imparted to others. Only by following that path can the mindset of the people of Wales can be changed.

    We should remember that devolution took place in to forestall or even to kill independence 'stone dead' as one Scottish Labour politician once said.

    It is a two-edged sword for nationalists, must be handled with care and is not an end in itself. Since 1999 Wales has become more dependent on the UK despite having a legislative assembly. For the goal of independence to be driven forward REAL power has to be devolved, requiring determined effort on the part of nationalists.

    Wales is in danger of having its constitutional future determined by external events, which will not be a happy state of affairs. There is currently no strong figure standing up for Wales' interests as the unionist party leaders in the Assembly have divided loyalties.

    Only Plaid's leader is capable of unequivocally articulating our interests. It has four to choose from, only one fits the bill, in my opinion.

  9. but what about the language?