Election 2017

General election 2017: Scotland's split exposes a new UK political divide

Sandy Cooper
Image caption Sandy Cooper is thinking of switching to the Conservatives

Class used to be an accurate indicator of voting habits - but that's no longer the case. In the second of a three-part Divided Kingdom series for BBC Newsnight, Katie Razzall reports from Scotland on how the political divisions between nationalists and unionists are playing out in this election.

In Yougov's latest data looking at Scottish voting intentions this election, there is a clear divide emerging between those who want an independent Scotland and those who want to remain in the Union.

About three-quarters of people who voted for independence are voting for the SNP.

Almost nine out of 10 (86%) of those who voted No are voting for the three unionist parties. The majority - 49% - are voting for the Tories; 27% for Labour and 10% for the Liberal Democrats.

It suggests that three years on from Scotland's independence referendum, the question of whether the country should split from the UK is still very much in play.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has argued the vote by 62% of Scots to remain in the EU last year means there should be a second independence referendum, and that an independent Scotland could stay within the EU.

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Scottish voters who don't want to leave the Union may see this election as a chance to send that message to their government.

Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, says the vote is heading towards a somewhat different outcome from that in 2015.

"It's worth remembering that at the last election, the SNP won 50% of the vote. The party still dominates the electoral scene in Scotland.

"But it's facing a different principal challenger this time round, in the form of a revived Conservative Party rather than a declining Labour Party."

East Renfrewshire is the kind of constituency the Conservatives hope to win, with their tactic of talking up their opposition to a second referendum at every opportunity.

It was a safe Conservative seat until 1997 when Jim Murphy won it for Labour. In 2015, the SNP took it, along with 55 other Scottish seats - out of a national total of 59.

Labour, too, aims to recapture East Renfrewshire, but the message that it's the Conservatives who will safeguard the union seems to have made its mark on some local voters.

At Mearns golf academy, Newsnight spoke to a retired consultant who's voted Labour all his life.

Image caption Gordon Canning: "Many people in Scotland do not want independence"

Gordon Canning told us it was a difficult thing to say he might vote Conservative, but "I want the SNP to be aware that there are a large number of people in Scotland that do not want independence."

Another golfer, Sandy Cooper, said he won't vote for the Liberal Democrats this time, as he usually does, because they aren't in the running in East Renfrewshire.

Mr Cooper says Labour is "no longer a credible opposition" and he plans to vote tactically "to get the SNP out".

And Ralph Izzott told us he had never voted before the Independence Referendum. He turned out to vote No.

Now he says he will vote again in this election - and it will be Conservative to show his outrage at the idea of an independent Scotland.

Voting Conservative isn't a young person's game here.

While 40% of over-65s are voting Tory in Scotland, only 20% of under-50s are.

In Glasgow's Yes Bar, a drinks and comedy venue that was renamed in the run-up to the independence referendum, compere Chrissy Ross opens his routine with a series of jokes at the expense of the Conservatives who have recently taken seats in the local elections, even here in Glasgow - SNP heartland, and before that the domain of Scottish Labour.

Image caption Chrissy Ross wants a second independence referendum

He told us he will vote SNP because he wants a second referendum, so Scotland doesn't have to leave the EU.

Interestingly, Ray Doull, the dance teacher at a rock-and-roll class at the Grand Ole Opry, also plans to vote SNP, though he voted to leave the EU in last year's referendum because "every country should govern itself".

According to Prof Curtice's analysis, at least a quarter of those who voted for the SNP in 2015 went against their party's stance in 2016 and voted to leave.

"It looks as though this group may account for a significant proportion of the loss in SNP support since then.

"It looks as if the nationalist pro-Brexiters may have defected from the party. The SNP may have lost the support of some of its more Eurosceptic voters, in some cases perhaps to the Conservatives."

This is the second of a three-part Divided Kingdom series for BBC Newsnight, looking at the new divides in politics.

Part one: Role of education

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