Fewer than half of people in Scotland say they support retaining the monarchy, according to a major new poll that reveals the cultural divides emerging within the union.
Almost six in 10 people across Britain want to retain the monarchy for the foreseeable future, with only a quarter saying that the end of the Queen’s reign would be an appropriate time for Britain to become a republic. The overwhelming majority, some 85%, expect that Britain will still have a monarchy in a decade’s time.
However the poll, by the British Future thinktank, found that only 45% in Scotland said they wanted to retain the monarchy – with 36% saying the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right moment to move to a republic. Some 19% either rejected the choice, or said they didn’t know.
It also revealed weaker support among young people and ethnic minorities across Britain. Only 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds backed keeping the monarchy, while 37% of people from an ethnic minority did so.
The revelations come at a crucial time for the monarchy, as Prince Charles takes on more of the Queen’s most important public duties. Last week, he delivered the Queen’s speech for the first time, after she was forced to pull out because of mobility problems. The occasion marks one of the monarch’s most important ceremonial duties. Her absence came just weeks before her platinum jubilee.
The four-day celebration is set to include several outings for the Queen, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral. The palace has said she currently plans to attend.
British Future’s study exposed clear issues among certain groups. Younger people expressed ambivalence about the future of the monarchy, with 37% feeling that the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right time to move on and become a republic. Among those aged 16-18, only 36% agree that “we should keep the monarchy for the foreseeable future”.
The clear drop in support for the monarchy in Scotland compared with Britain as a whole also comes at a time when the union is under continued pressure. The SNP has said that it is committed to retaining the monarchy should Scotland vote for independence. A Panelbase poll last summer, which was worded differently to British Future’s survey, found that 47% of Scottish adults would vote to keep a royal head of state, compared with 35% who would favour an elected head of state.
Further growing splits were identified in attitudes to other symbols of national identity such as the union flag. Most respondents associated it with the monarchy (72%), Team GB (71%) and the armed forces (68%).
However, a quarter of people (25%) associate it with racism and extremism – an increase of 10 points since 2012. The England flag is more contentious. While 60% of the public and 62% of minority groups think it represents pride and patriotism, almost a third of the public as a whole (32%) see it as representing racism and extremism, including 43% of those from an ethnic minority.
There were also suggestions that the forthcoming jubilee could be used as a vehicle to further unite Britons, but there is a relative lack of interest in Scotland. Only 48% of people north of the border are interested in the jubilee – fewer than said they were interested in the World Cup in December, despite the fact that Scotland have not yet qualified.
This contrasts with 73% of people in Wales and two-thirds across England who are interested in next month’s events.
The findings are included in a forthcoming British Future report looking at how attitudes have changed in the 10 years since the last jubilee. Polling was carried out for the study by FocalData. Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said the jubilee provided a chance to unify the country: “Major events can bring people together if they are done in an inclusive way that broadens their reach and appeal,” he said. “Getting this right would be good for our society – and for the monarchy too, helping address some of the challenges it faces to stay relevant in modern Britain, particularly in Scotland.”