Nov 29

The Welsh Connexion: Polling the Scottish Question in Cardiff

Claire Dunn previously worked in political and science communications. Recently she has set up a Cardiff-based publishing and production company, having found that writing is more fun than real work. She studies at the Cardiff Creative Industries School.

Having recently moved myself and my business from Yorkshire to South Wales, I have begun to see the question of Scottish independence in a deeper, more developed way.  Previously my considerations had been rather self-involved – how would this affect me? What of my Scottish relatives across the potential new border?  What would it mean for my business? (I work mainly in political communications).

When I arrived in Wales however I was canvassed on the doorstep by Plaid Cymru; they had no way of knowing that I was a seasoned campaigner, and I had never experienced serious campaigning from a non-Westminster political party, so I went along with the experience with curiosity.  It was interesting to see how they reacted to my ‘Englishness’ – they immediately dropped the Welsh emphasis and began to talk instead of local family issues such as schools, safety etc.  For me this opened up an interesting question – how do they normally campaign?  Were my accent a Welsh rural accent would they treat me differently to a city person? Etcetera.

Those of you that have experienced the campaign trail already know the answer; it is at once a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’, they would treat me differently until they heard my views on nationalism and then adjust their style accordingly.  This is not a slight on Plaid, every campaigner does it to a certain extent, we don’t lie but we do have to adjust our narrative to each voter due to time restraints.  I began to speak to my new Welsh friends about ‘Welshness’ and their views on the Scottish referendum.  I was curious to know whether they had a different response to the idea than the residents of England and Scotland. From an anecdotal point of view, I generally found that people who had been living in Wales for a while or were born there had a passionate view on Scottish independence, generally that they felt it would be harmful to Wales.

I decided to explore the idea further when training an intern in market research and polling.  We conducted a lengthy survey of 400 people with 15 yes/no question and 2 follow up questions based on response to 2 questions.  We recorded the age, gender, nationality and parental nationality of each person and only surveyed people currently residing in Wales (of any race or cultural heritage).  We made a special note of people who had both English and Welsh heritage or Scottish and Welsh heritage.

We conducted the survey in Cardiff Bay and in the main city park – in Cardiff Bay we mainly spoke to Welsh tourists coming to visit the Welsh Assembly and BBC buildings and in the park we mainly spoke to city residents.  Although an extensive polling undertaking, we generally found that people were willing to stop and speak to us once they realised the topic in question was the Scottish referendum.

I intend on publishing the data in detail, however for now I thought that the specific responses from Welsh nationals regarding their relationship with Scotland were very interesting:

Q: Are you aware of the specific wording or tone that is intended to be the question in the referendum?

Overwhelmingly here, people identifying as Welsh were much more likely to give an accurate description of the proposed referendum.

Q: Is the idea of a Scottish referendum a positive thing?

Here Welsh nationals were more likely to say no than English or Irish people.  I asked a follow-up question of ‘why’ and found that both people who said yes or no felt that a Scottish referendum could be a slippery slope towards raising the same issue in Wales.

Q: Can you tell me the legal differences between Britain, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, England and Wales and Scotland?

Here Welsh nationals were more likely to give an inaccurate description of the current relationship between England, Scotland and Wales but were more likely to give an accurate description of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland than English or other EU nationals.

Q: Do you care whether Scotland becomes an independent country?

Here Welsh nationals were less likely to say they cared about this issue; however when that person shared other-UK and Welsh parentage they were twice as likely to care than people with two Welsh parents.

Q: Do you feel emotionally attached to Scotland or Scottish culture?

This is the second question that I decided to ask a follow-up on, I had people who answered positively tell me what that attachment was.  Here Welsh nationals and people with shared other-UK and Welsh heritage said that they did feel connected emotionally to Scotland.  People with shared other-UK and Welsh heritage were the most likely to answer positively.  The reasons they gave were a myriad of social, educational and familial issues but notably none of these were economic/work related reasons.

Q: Would you like this (a referendum) to happen in Wales?

Here the Welsh nationals and people with shared UK heritage were both the most likely to say no to this question after people identifying as English.  Where the responses were positive, some were people who stated a genuine desire for a debate on the relationship with Westminster however there seemed little desire for that referendum to result in actual separation.  Anecdotally, there seemed to be two prevailing opinions on this issue – either that the referendum could be used to solve the West Lothian problem or increase Welsh power in certain areas or that a referendum would ‘knock the question on the head’ as one man succinctly put it.

I am still analysing and making notes on the full range of questions, if you have any specific queries feel free to get in touch at nuestory.com.

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  1. Independent England

    Interesting comment about the West Lothian Question. The majority of English people are concerned about this. It seems from your work that the Welsh are also concerned. Maybe non Welsh nationalists see it as a threat to the UK ie. that England will say enough is enough and declare independence?

    1. Claire Dunn

      I’d agree that the Welsh are generally concerned about the balance of power/the relationships between the nations. Although some of them were not aware of the ‘West Lothian Question’ I recognised similar concerns within their replies, and made a not of this in my surveys. Often when taking survey responses I find it necessary to make notes of the emotional emphasis within responses, however with this question I noticed that emotive responses were particularly likely. One woman in particular simply said, quite sadly, ‘it feels like we’re [the UK] are slipping apart’.

  2. Old Albion

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people of England were asked their opinion? But of course we don’t exist………

    1. Tom Hall

      We do exist, but only when it comes time to pay the Divided Kingdom’s bills.

    2. Claire Dunn

      It has been interesting sensing the differing opinions in Wales and England about this problem – to ask the English and Welsh or not – as an English woman recently moved to Wales, the concept of nationality has been at the forefront of my mind.

      The next article I have written analyses the results in more detail, particularly in relation to who should be allowed to take part in the referendum.

  3. IndependentEngland

    Exactly Albion. There’s a good chance that if England held a referendum on independence for England there would be a YES vote.

  4. Ivory

    Awesome article.

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