Support for Scottish independence falls to lowest level this year

After an SNP poll put the Yes campaign ahead, a new TNS BRMB survey puts backing for independence at just 25% with 47% opposed.

After being cheered by Monday's (unreliable) SNP/Panelbase poll on Scottish independence, which put the Yes campaign ahead for the first time since August 2011, Scottish nationalists have woken up to the grim news that support for separation has fallen to its lowest level this year.

A new TNS BRMB poll shows that just 25% would vote for independence compared to 47% who would vote against it. The survey is further evidence of why the SNP poll should be treated with scepticism. Those polled were first asked whether they thought Scotland could be "a successful, independent country" and whether they trusted the Scottish government or Westminster to take "the best decisions for Scotland". It's likely that both questions nudged people towards supporting independence in the final question.

Every other poll in the last two years has shown the No campaign ahead by a convincing margin and the TNS BRMB survey and last week's YouGov poll (which put the No camp ahead by 59-29) suggest that trend will continue. 

If there is any consolation for the Yes campaign, it's that 28% of voters are undecided, up from 15% in February, but it would need to win over 79% of them to close the gap with the No camp. At present, even if, as Alex Salmond recently told the NS, "This is the phoney war. This is not the campaign. I went into an election [for the Scottish Parliament] in 2011 20 points behind in the polls and ended up 15 in front. The real game hasn’t even started. We are just clearing the ground", that is looking like a near impossible task. 

Scottish First Minister and SNP First Minister Alex Salmond. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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