Published in Holyrood magazine on 13 February 2023.
To the four prime ministers who have quit Downing Street since Nicola Sturgeon took up residence at Bute House, the First Minister must have seemed enviably immune to the laws of political gravity. If those laws now seem to be reasserting themselves, my latest poll of over 2,000 Scots helps explain.
Much of Sturgeon’s success lies in her skilful positioning as a powerful voice for Scotland against an indifferent or hostile Tory Westminster. In the row over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, that strategy has backfired. My research highlights two main reasons why.
The first is that Scots disagree with her about the issue itself, and that many side with Westminster over Holyrood on the fate of the Bill. Only just over one in five (22%) support the Bill and think the UK government was wrong to block it; nearly twice as many oppose the reforms and support Rishi Sunak’s decision to step in. Scots are nearly twice as likely to prefer a law made in Westminster that they agree with to a law made in Scotland that they oppose (in fact nearly a quarter of 2019 SNP voters would rather have the former). The controversy over transgender prisoners only underlines the Scottish government’s miscalculation.