A struggling Scottish newspaper has been heavily criticised after it promoted an independence poll despite suspicions the question wording was designed to confuse participants.
The Scotsman newspaper front page featured a headline which read ‘60% of Scots would vote ‘remain’ in new indyref‘.
According to the newspaper article, “Scots would vote against independence by a wide margin if they were asked whether to leave or remain in the United Kingdom, a landmark poll has found.” The poll was carried out by leading pollsters Survation on behalf of Unionist campaign group Scotland in Union.
The poll featured on BBC Scotland’s flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland, with presenter Hayley Millar telling listeners that an “exclusive poll” found “sixty per cent of Scottish voters aged sixteen and over would choose to stay in the UK, just forty per cent would choose to leave.”
The poll was seized on by leading Unionist politicians. Tory MSP Annie Wells tweeted “60% of Scots would vote against independence in new indyref poll.”
However the poll was ridiculed after it emerged it used wording normally associated with the EU referendum and Brexit issues. Participants were asked whether they would opt to ‘remain’ in the UK or ‘leave’ the UK. The options normally associated with independence polls are ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
Pro-independence polling expert James Kelly wrote: “We know that in standard Survation online polling, the Yes vote stands in the mid-to-high 40s, but by instead asking the non-standard question “Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?”, SiU were able to produce the false impression that Yes support has slumped to 40%.
“In a disgraceful betrayal of basic journalistic ethics, The Scotsman has played along with this propaganda stunt, and has cynically left its readers with the sense that the poll figures represent a real change in public opinion.”
One social media user claimed to have participated in the survey and said the wording made him initially think it was an EU poll. He tweeted: “I think I did that poll. I nearly wrongly answered remain as I thought it was about Europe.”
The Scotsman’s rabidly pro-Union stance meant there was little sympathy amongst pro-independence social media users last week when it went into administration. The newspaper was subsequently saved. However this latest front page is unlikely to lead to an increase in readership amongst the independence movement.