So this is interesting. Last week we were about to release some results from our latest Panelbase poll when events intervened. Naturally we’d asked a few questions about gender issues, and one of them concerned the Scottish Government’s potential legal challenge to the UK government’s use of a Section 35 order to block the Gender Recognition Reform bill.
There were three options in the question, and as luck would have it the three potential new leaders of the SNP each advocates a different one.
We asked an unusually long question to be fair to each option:
“The Scottish Government has announced that it currently intends to mount a legal challenge to the UK government’s intervention over the Gender Recognition Reform bill, which is likely to be ultimately determined in the Supreme Court at a significant cost to Scottish and UK taxpayers.
The UK government has urged the Scottish Government to instead work with it to present an amended version of the bill which is compliant with UK law, while women’s-rights campaigners have called on them to drop the bill completely.
What do you think the Scottish Government should do?”
Humza Yousaf supports the first option:
Kate Forbes has come out for the second option:
And Ash Regan has chosen the third option:
So who’s got the public with them?
Short answer: Ash Regan does. She edges it by a couple of points over Kate Forbes’ compromise view – which is basically unachievable other than by ditching the entire key concept of self-ID and making the bill pointless – while just over one in five Scots back Humza Yousaf’s plan to take it to court (which would take many months, cost a fortune and have very little chance of success, while keeping the damaging issue at the forefront of the news agenda).
However, it’s more complicated than that. SNP supporters break the other way:
Among those who voted for the party in 2021, Yousaf’s challenge narrowly beats Forbes, with Regan well behind. However, this poll was conducted prior to the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, so we have to consider that the loyalty vote may have played a significant part. And even then, only a third of SNP supporters want the Scottish Government to challenge the S35, with 50% supporting the other two options (which amount to the same thing).
Those are the same numbers found in our poll and others when the public has been asked whether they supported the UK government’s intervention.
That’s our poll, here’s another from a few days earlier with almost identical figures:
However you slice it, the GRR is a massive albatross around the SNP’s neck. At best only a third of their own voters want it pursued, and it’s completely toxic to everyone else who they want might to win over to their cause.
Who becomes the party’s next leader, then, could very well have a defining effect on the prospects not only for the SNP, but for independence itself. We hope its members take that responsibility seriously. There’s a lot at stake.