Poll finds Boris Johnson key factor for Scots backing independence

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus (COVID-19). - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson's leadership is the biggest driver for swing voters over Scottish independence, new polling has revealed.

Brexit, the Westminster government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and a desire for certainty were all attributed to rising support for Scotland going it alone, but the key argument was Johnson, a view shared by 79% of swing voters.

The polling was conducted by JL Partners, led by Theresa May's former pollster James Johnson, and shared with Politico interviewed 1,016 people in September and gave independence a 56% to 44% lead excluding to don't knows.

It found that Westminster's opposition to Nicola Sturgeon holding another vote should she win a majority in next year's elections could prompt more voters to turn against Downing Street, with 53% saying it would be wrong to be denied another referendum.

The pandemic appears to have polarised opinions of Sturgeon and Johnson in Scotland with 74% thinking the Scottish government handled it well, compared to 84% who think Westminster handled it badly.

But whilst Johnson is a key factor, there is more favorability for other Conservatives, suggesting a change in leadership in Downing Street could reverse fortunes.

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“The chancellor has a net rating of +30 with Scottish swing voters, higher than Keir Starmer, Gordon Brown, Alex Ferguson, and even the Queen,” James Johnson said. “Ruth has lost some of her popularity since she stepped down, but still gets a positive judgment from voters. No. 10 should lock away Boris, and put up Rishi and Ruth.” 

“In focus groups [Boris Johnson] is not just criticized in the way David Cameron and Theresa May were,” he continued, “but loathed.”

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