Reasons to be cheerful – the hard evidence shows conclusively that there is no appetite ANYWHERE in the UK for breaking up the Union – Stephen Bailey

Written by Stephen Bailey

It’s an often repeated theme of anti-UK nationalism (the SNP in Scotland especially) that there is a popular demand from the UK public to end the Union. They bleat repeatedly in a monotone like sheep ‘The Union is dead’ in a pathetic attempt at creating the impression that the UK will inevitably break up. They have to maintain this fiction, as any look at the objective, verifiable, empirical facts (data and statistical evidence) contradicts them.

A close look at the objective, verifiable, empirical facts and statistics clearly gives the conclusion that in ALL parts of the UK, a clear and often substantial majority of the public want to keep the Union together.

Here are the facts in each part of the UK(1):


In Scotland, the vast majority of opinion polls continue to show that a substantial majority of Scots want Scotland to stay in the Union.

The idea that the nationalists have a mandate for independence from ANY election, Westminster, devolved executive (Holyrood) or local council is THE major fallacy of elections for Scottish constituencies.


The bottom-line fact of UK Constitutional Law is that under the devolution ‘settlement’, a Holyrood election CANNOT deliver a mandate for independence, as the Constitution is a reserved matter, irrespective of what’s in a party’s manifesto, or that independence is their reason for existing.

It can deliver a mandate for a party to form a devolved administration at Holyrood and look after Scotland’s day-to-day matters ONLY (i.e. all matters that aren’t reserved for Westminster’s consideration), but that’s all.

The same is true of devolved elections in Wales and Northern Ireland under UK Constitutional Law. A win at a devolved election will give a party a mandate to create an administration at the devolved legislature (the Welsh ‘parliament’ or Stormont) to look after that part of the UK’s day-to-day matters within their devolved remit, but no other mandate.

But let’s indulge the SNP and take a very close look at its claims to have a mandate for independence.

The SNP’s claim to have derived a mandate for separation through receiving a majority of votes from the public in elections (Westminster, Holyrood or local council) doesn’t survive the objective scrutiny and rigorous close examination of the empirical data.

They’ve never received a majority of votes from the entire registered Scottish electorate (4,243,800 people) just a simple majority of those that did actually vote. Added to this, that simple majority has never even reached 50% of those that voted, and indeed usually came in at around a third of the total registered electorate.

Winning a majority of seats in Holyrood, and a majority of seats in Scotland at Westminster doesn’t give the SNP any mandate for independence when they only represent around a third of the total registered electorate, and where the vast majority of opinion polls on independence in Scotland continue to show a majority for Scotland staying in the Union.

So, the evidence shows that there is no majority demand for independence in Scotland.


Turning to England, the picture is very similar to that in Scotland. Data from multiple polls clearly demonstrates that the majority of English residents reject the separation of England from the rest of the UK.

There has been talk from both Scottish nationalists and some English nationalists as well as pro-English Parliament advocates that the English are disaffected with the Union, and either want to break it up, don’t care if it does break up, or want an English Parliament. The facts contradict this assertion and show the opposite is true in reality.

For example, a major poll, conducted by Panelbase, which polled 3,981 people across the UK between June 18th and July 2nd, 2021, determined that English voters oppose a new Scottish independence referendum and want Scotland to remain in the UK.

It also found that plans by the SNP to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence face strong resistance from voters in England, something other polls conducted in Scotland have also determined.

Other results from this UK-wide Panelbase poll of 3,891 voters across the mainland finds that 56% of voters in England believe there should not be another referendum in the next few years, and 54% want Scotland to remain in the UK.

Several other opinion polls in England have also found that there is a majority for staying in the Union.

For instance, a major survey has determined the enduring strength of British identity in the UK today.

Nearly half of people (48%) said they considered themselves British above any other identity, with only 3 in 10 disagreeing.

British identity was the strongest in England (51%) then Wales (46%). This conclusively shows that the English nationalist assertion the English now want to break up the Union is not backed up by the facts.

53% of those who voted to remain in the EU and 47% of people who backed leaving in the 2016 referendum also saw themselves first and foremost as British.

A total of 56% said the UK remaining united was ‘very important to me’, with only 15% disagreeing.

Fewer than 1 in 5 (19%) of people said the UK would be better off if Scotland voted for independence, with 42% disagreeing. Nearly 4 out of 10 (39%) opposed a second Scottish independence referendum, with only 32% saying one should be held.

Along with Scotland, facts prove that a majority of English residents favour keeping the Union together.


In Wales, polls on independence tend to gravitate in the 20-30s percentile range (with the very occasional spike).

A comprehensive new survey has determined that the overwhelming majority of Welsh people reject independence.

The ‘State of the nation Survey’ is conducted annually by YouGov for WalesOnline and asks people what they think of Welsh independence and Mark Drakeford’s devolved Labour administration. Several thousand people took part. Over 8,000 took part in 2023 and 7,000 in 2022, giving its findings a very high degree of veracity.

The major finding of this survey is that the vast majority of people in Wales reject independence. In 2022, 7,510 people responded to this question and of these, 63% said they didn’t think Wales should be independent of the UK, with only 28% saying it should. This is a notable diminution of support for independence, which stood at 30% in this survey the previous year.

The survey returns results that regularly show the public in this part of the UK reject independence and think that the Labour devolved administration is grossly incompetent. The 2022 survey has the following results:

To the question ‘How well do you think the Welsh Government serves the interests of Wales?’ there were 7,533 responses. Just under half of the responses (49%) thought that Labour leader Mark Drakeford’s devolved Welsh administration served the interests of Wales ‘not very well’, compared with 28% that answered ‘somewhat well’ and 22% that said, ‘very well’.

To the question ‘Should Mark Drakeford stand down soon, as he said he would?’, there were 7,524 responses. The results of the WalesOnline survey show that Welsh people were keen to see this happen, with 58% of respondents saying he should stand down soon.

Of the 7,524 people who answered the question, 26% said ‘no’. Drakeford appears to have listened, as he has subsequently announced his decision to stand down.

To the question ‘Is enough (or too much) [power] devolved to Wales?’ there were 7,501 responses. Both answers received 38% each, but with a 23 vote difference in favour of ‘too much’.

To the question ‘What single thing could be done which would make a big difference to Wales’ future?’, ‘abolishing devolution’ was a featured reply.

Clearly, there is very little appetite for independence in Wales.


In Northern Ireland, over three-quarters of those who do not vote in elections support the Union, a major new academic survey has found. The study determined that more than three quarters of the half a million people who do not vote in elections in Northern Ireland support the Union, not unification with the Republic.

The study, carried out by Social Market Research of 2,000 people for the University of Liverpool questions the assumption that how people vote in elections is necessarily reflective of how those who turn out in any potential referendum to remove Northern Ireland from the UK, will vote.

In a report setting out the findings, the lead author of the research project, Professor Jon Tonge from the University of Liverpool, said: ‘In terms of a border poll, election results may be a less accurate a guide to the desire for reunification, especially when it is considered that 76.9% of non-voters who stated a preference are pro-Union.’

Overall, the survey found 53.5% of the sample support remaining in the UK, rising to 65% when those who said they don’t know, expressed other preferences or refused to answer are excluded.

These findings are backed up by another major poll, which found that a clear and substantial majority of people want Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.

‘The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey’ (NILT) has also been undertaken. It was carried out between October 8th and December 8th 2022 and surveyed 1,292 adults aged 18 or over. The polling was organized by both the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast

NILT has determined that just under 53% of voters in Northern Ireland would opt to stay with the UK in a referendum on unification with the Republic.

This extensive survey also determined that only a third of those surveyed backed unification and that support for Northern Ireland remaining in the Union was popular across the communities, with substantial support for staying in the UK coming from Roman Catholics.

The survey also found that 9% of those surveyed fell into the ‘undecided’ category when asked if Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic or remain in the UK. Based upon the poll’s results, even if all the undecideds eventually decided to opt for reunification, the pro-unification figure would still only be 39%. It was also determined that a majority of those who profess no religion also support staying in the UK (48%) with 32% of those in the same category backing unification.

This survey is one in a succession that have found hard objective empirical evidence from across the communities in Northern Ireland for staying in the UK, something that is echoed by the studies of academic experts.

For instance, Dr Peter Shirlow, a social demographer and head of Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies has stated that the NILT findings were consistent with other polls showing a cross-community majority against a united Ireland, adding:

‘There have been at least six household surveys now conducted [in Northern Ireland] since 2016 by the University of Liverpool, Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster Unionist. All these surveys show majority support [in Northern Ireland] for remaining in the UK, a significant share of Roman Catholics who support remaining in the UK and no growth in the very small proportion of Protestants who want Irish unification. These robust and rigorous surveys clearly indicate there is no evidence that would support the calling of a border poll.’

Dr Shirlow has also described calls for a border poll and Irish unity from nationalists as ‘a fast-growing souffle, given that when you see survey after survey showing a united Ireland is not imminent then you have to conclude, there may be something hollow in the middle.’

He went on to point out that the NILT poll was conducted at a time that should have been ‘an optimum moment’ for those ‘seeking Irish unification’, stating:

‘Brexit, the protocol and the massive effort made by civic nationalist groups has led to a small growth in those who support unification, yet this was supposed to be the game changer.’

He added:

‘If you take out those who do not express an opinion, then we are looking at 65% for the union and 36% for Irish unity.’

From the above facts, it is abundantly clear that the majority of those in Northern Ireland, from across the communities, have rejected unification and favour staying in the Union.

Across the entire UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland), the objective facts (in the form of a succession of many opinion polls and surveys) show there is a consensus that her citizens want to keep the Union together and separatism has been decisively rejected.

This UK-wide consensus among her citizens on the desire to maintain the Union and reject separation is very strongly echoed by the most comprehensive and recent survey carried out so far-the 2021 UK national Census.

The SNP in Scotland decided to run a census separately from the rest of the UK and inevitably, it turned into an embarrassing (for the nationalists) show of incompetence, in how NOT to do it. Initial results (pertaining to population size) have just been released (in September this year), but the results relating to national identity will not be available until the summer of 2024. Consequently, no analysis and comment can be made at this juncture. This article will be updated at that time.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the Census data on national identity in England and Wales (2).

-More than half of the usually resident population of England and Wales, 54.8% or 32.7 million people, indicated that they were of solely ‘British’ national identity, a rise of 35.8% since the 2011 Census.

-Conversely, the opposite trend was witnessed in the ‘English only’ category, which fell massively by 42.8% from 57.7% in 2011 to 14.9% (32.4 million people) in 2021.

Regarding English identity in England specifically:

-56.8% of people selected a ‘British’ only identity (an increase from 19.2% in the 2011 Census).

-15.3% of individuals selected an ‘English’ only identity (a decrease from 60.4% in 2011).

Figure 1: Summary table of results for the 2021 National Census (national identity) for England and Wales, compared with 2011 census data (2011 figures for number of the population in that category given first, followed by percentage amount of the population, then 2021 figures for the same categories):

(1) ‘British’ only identity: 10, 690, 999 (19.1%), 33, 677, 619, (54.8%).

(2) English only identity: 33, 351, 735 (57.7%), 8, 898, 728 (14.9%).

(3) English and British only: 4, 867, 862 (8.7%), 8, 112, 809 (13.6%).

The ONS Census results for England and Wales clearly show that there has been a monumental rise in the number of English and Welsh residents who view themselves as citizens of a United Kingdom, as British rather than just of English nationality, which has similarly sharply declined.

Turning to Northern Ireland (NI), the pro-UK national identity trend continues in three separate datasets that relate to various aspects of national identity (3):

It found that: national identity (national identity based):

-42.8% (814, 600) of people living in NI described themselves as ‘British’ (i.e. they identified with the UK mainland).

-33.3% (634, 600) who said they were ‘Irish’ (identifying with the Irish Republic).

This clear majority of support for being British in NI is further buttressed by the results relating to person-based national identity:

-‘British only’: 606, 300 (31.9%).

-‘Irish only’: 554, 400 (29.1%).

There is also a clear pro-UK majority for the national identity (nationality-based) data:

-British: 814, 600.

-Irish: 634, 000.

In overview, three separate datasets on national identity have returned a clear majority of NI residents describing themselves as ‘British’ and who identify with the UK, not the Irish Republic.

All the above results (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) dovetail nicely with the results of several polls and surveys carried out since 2020 which strongly indicate that majorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland want to keep the Union of the UK together and have rejected separatism. (3)

It is the inescapable, overwhelming conclusion of a very substantial body of objective, verifiable, empirical evidence (in the form of hard data and statistics from surveys and polls of citizens from around the UK and conclusively proved by the findings of the most extensive survey possible, the 2021 UK national Census) that a similarly substantial majority of the public across England, Wales and Northern Ireland desire keeping the Union together.

Sources, footnotes and further reading:

(1) Click on the following links for further information concerning opinion polls on independence (in Scotland and Wales) and re-unification in Northern Ireland:

(a) Scotland: For a list of opinion polls on independence in Scotland, click here:

The vast number of these polls show a majority of Scots want Scotland to stay in the Union.

(b) England and Wales: A Panelbase poll (conducted in 2021) established that of the 3,981 people surveyed, 54% of the English respondents wanted Scotland to remain in the Union and 56% said there SHOULD NOT be another independence referendum held there.

A UK-wide 2020 Savanta ComRes poll found that 51% of English residents stated that their identity was ‘British’ rather than English and 46% of Welsh residents also stated this. The poll also found that 48% of all UK citizens (in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) also considered themselves as of British identity only. Click on the following link for fuller details:

(c) Northern Ireland (NI): See the following links for fuller details of surveys and polls on re-unification in NI:


(2) To read the full 2021 Census dataset on national identity in England and Wales, click here:

(3) Please click on the following link to read full dataset of the 2021 Census in Northern Ireland:

Further reading: For a fuller examination of the question of the SNP, devolved elections and mandates:

NB: The article does not represent the views of Scotland Matters.

Want to see Scotland under the SNP?

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter and join the fightback against Scottish Nationalism.