Tories contradict their own interests with union support

By politics.co.uk staff

Conservatives oppose Scottish independence even though they believe it would be in their party's interest, a new poll suggests.

The survey of Conservative members, conducted by ConservativeHome shows 88% of Tories believe England would get a Conservative government if Scotland becomes independent.

The belief that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are better together seems to trump party-political concerns, however, with 72% agreeing with the statement.

While maintaining the union is key to many Conservatives' beliefs it is left-wing English voters who have the most to lose if Scotland gains independence.

With Scotland and Wales both constituting solid left-wing voting blocks, England would have been under near-continuous Conservative rule if it had its own government since World War Two.

A majority of respondents – 67% – believed the Scots would vote for independence, despite current polls showing the idea is unpopular north of the border.

There is also support for moves which would push the vote ahead to prevent first minister Alex Salmond tabling the referendum for when he is most likely to win.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: "Rather than wait until Alex Salmond thinks he can win an independence referendum the coalition government in Westminster should instigate a referendum now and resolve the issue immediately."

There was also considerable support for the idea that devolution put Scotland on a "conveyor belt to independence", with 55% accepting that argument.

Mr Salmond's remarkable victory in Scotland during last month's elections saw him take full control of Holyrood, under a system specifically designed to prevent such an outcome.

Analysts are divided on the reasons for the win, with some blaming Labour's negative campaigning style and others citing Mr Salmond's charismatic personality.

Westminster based parties tend to send their brightest talent to London, whereas the Scottish National party (SNP) retains them in Holyrood, meaning their candidates are generally more accomplished than their Tory or Labour counterparts.

Other believe Mr Salmond simply needed a period in power for Scots to trust the SNP as a party of government.