Border Blues?

A new species of referendum poll makes a first appearance tonight – a full sized poll of attitudes in one specific region of Scotland. It comes from ITV Border – to mark the launch of a new regular Scottish politics show for the region  – and covers people living in Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. Conducted by ITV’s regular pollsters. ComRes, it interviewed 1,004 people between 2nd and 6th January.

There is of course good reason to anticipate that support for independence will be lower in the Borders than elsewhere in Scotland. According to the 2011 Census, only just over three-quarters of residents in the two council areas were born in Scotland compared with the nationwide tally of 83%.  Meanwhile, people living there would be most likely to suffer inconvenience if the movement or people or goods were to be interrupted in any way as a result of the English-Scottish border becoming an international  dividing line.

This indeed appears to be the position in practice.  Just 24% of those who say they are likely to vote in the referendum go on to say they would vote Yes to the proposition that will appear on the ballot paper, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’. 59% say they would vote No and 17% do not know. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded that points to a referendum result of 29% Yes, 71% No.

ComRes have not previously published a poll of referendum vote intentions, so we cannot compare this result with a Scotland-wide previous reading of theirs.  But that 29% figure is ten points below the average Yes vote in all the nationwide polls conducted in the last three months of last year (once Don’t Knows are excluded), and eight points below the 37% recorded by the smaller set of four polls conducted since the referendum white paper was published. Meanwhile, the 24% Yes vote with the Don’t Knows included is lower than that recorded in any Scotland wide poll conducted in the last year.

All in all it seems clear that Dumfries, Galloway and the Borders are proving relatively tough terrain for the Yes side to conquer.

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About the author

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.