The Journal of Social Psychology, 1981, 115, 141-142.


University of New South Wales


Given the long history of Scottish and Irish struggle against the English and given the way in which the political independence of small countries often has to be bought with bloodshed, it might be imagined that the aspirations to independence among a large part of the Scottish population would be viewed unsympathetically by the English.

The availability of a recent survey of British attitudes in this field (1) makes an examination of this assumption possible. In the survey, samples of the London and Glasgow populations were taken and identical methodology was used. The N was in each case 100. Such surveys have, of course, been carried out before, but a great deal depends on the precise questions asked. Barker and Spencer (2), for instance, asked if respondents favored "A separate parliament with strong powers of its own" for Scotland. Among the Scots 42% were in favor but in the U.K. as a whole only 26% were in favor. It seemed possible that the alternatives offered to the respondents by the investigators might have been inadequate. The great English tradition of compromise surely demanded that a more moderate (perhaps "wishy washy") alternative also be suggested. In the present survey, therefore, the question was put as follows:

As far as the connection between England and Scotland is concerned, do you think:

1. It should remain the same as it is now?
2. Scotland should get greater independence to some extent?
3. Scotland should become completely independent altogether?

These might be called the Union, Devolution, and Independence options, respectively.

The most popular option chosen by the London sample was in fact Devolution -- with 47 of the 100 "votes." Thirty-eight chose Union, a surprising 12 chose total independence, and only three (all recent immigrants to Britain) had no opinion. In Glasgow the comparable votes were, respectively, 59, 18, and 23 with no "Not sures." The three options were scored 1, 2, and 3 to give a simple "scale" of overall favorability to change. The mean scores in the two subsamples showed no significant differences. It may be noted that the provision of a "compromise" option greatly reduced the number of "Not sure" responses [22% in the Barker and Spencer (1) U. K. sample.]

It may be, therefore, that in spite of the long history of their attempt to absorb Scotland, the English today are no more opposed to increased Scottish independence than are the Scots themselves. Since a majority of Scottish voters chose Devolution at the recent referendum, perhaps the present maintenance of the status quo in the U. K. reflects neither Scottish nor English electoral preferences.


1. Ray, J.J. (1979) Does authoritarianism of personality go with conservatism? Australian Journal of Psychology 31, 9-14.; Ray, J.J. (1979) How different are the Scots and English? Contemporary Review 234, 158-159.; Ray, J.J. (1978) Are Scottish nationalists authoritarian and conservative? European J. Political Research 6, 411-418.

2. Barker, P., & Spencer, N. People and power: A new society survey -- 2. New Soc., 1975, 32, 580-583.

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