Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes 2019: attitudes to government and political engagement

Findings from the 2019 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA), conducted between August 2019 and March 2020, on attitudes to government, the economy, the health service, levels of tax and spend, government priorities and political engagement

Key findings

20 years of Scottish Social Attitudes 1999-2019

Over the last 20 years:

  • Levels of trust in the Scottish Government to act in Scotland's best interests and to make fair decisions have been consistently higher than trust in the UK Government. 
  • The proportions of people who think the Scottish Government is good at listening to people before taking decisions, and that the Scottish Parliament gives ordinary people more say in how Scotland is governed, have increased by 19 and 25 percentage points respectively since 2004.
  • Views on which body ought to have the most influence over how Scotland is run have remained relatively stable, with the Scottish Government typically favoured by two-thirds to three-quarters, and the UK Government by between around 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 in most years.
  • Between 1999 and 2006 support for increasing taxation and spending was above the level of support for keeping it the same, after which this reversed for almost a decade. Since 2015 support for increasing taxation and spending has been higher than for keeping it the same.
  • Satisfaction with the NHS has increased from a low of 40% in 2005 to a high of 65% in 2019. At the same time, in almost every year, more people think standards in the NHS have fallen since the previous year than think they have increased.
  • Between 2004 and 2007 more people felt that the economy had grown stronger than felt it had weakened. This picture was reversed in 2009 following the global financial crash. Views became more positive from 2013 despite another dip following the EU referendum in 2016. Views on the standard of living followed a similar pattern except that views on the standard of living continued to improve until 2017 when the proportion believing the standard of living had either increased or stayed the same returned to 2013 levels.
  • The importance attached to voting in elections has increased over time – from just under 8 in 10 considering it important to vote in 2004 to around 9 in 10 considering it important to do so in 2019.

Attitudes to government and the Scottish Parliament 

  • In 2019, 61% of people said they trusted the Scottish Government to work in Scotland's best interests, compared with 15% who said they trusted the UK Government to do so.
  • The Scottish Government (37%) and local councils (29%) were more likely to be trusted 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' to make fair decisions than the UK Government (11%). 
  • Over half of people (51%) thought the Scottish Government was good at listening to people before it made decisions, compared with 45% who thought this of their local council, and 15% who thought this of the UK Government.
  • Substantially more people thought the Scottish Parliament was giving Scotland a stronger voice in the UK (61%) than thought it was giving Scotland a weaker voice (5%). Similarly over half thought the Scottish Parliament was giving ordinary people more say in how Scotland is governed (56%) than thought it was giving them less say (6%). 
  • Views were fairly evenly split on which government had the most influence over the way Scotland is run, with 40% saying that the Scottish Government did, and 42% saying that the UK Government did. Almost three-quarters (73%) thought the Scottish Government ought to have the most influence, compared with 15% who thought the UK Government ought to have the most influence.

Views on the economy and the standard of living in Scotland

  • More people thought that Scotland's economy had grown weaker (42%) over the last 12 months than thought it had grown stronger (17%). 28% thought it had stayed the same.
  • Around half of people (49%) thought the standard of living in Scotland had fallen in the past year, while 16% thought it had increased. Thirty percent thought it had stayed the same.
  • Of those who thought that the economy had grown stronger, over two-thirds (68%) said this was a result of Scottish Government policies, compared with 11% who said it was a result of UK Government policies. Similarly, of those who thought that the standard of living had improved people were more likely to 'credit' Scottish Government policies (44%) than those of the UK Government (19%). 
  • Among those who thought that the economy had grown weaker over the last 12 months, people were more likely to say this was a result of UK Government policies (54%) than Scottish Government policies (19%). Similarly, among those who thought that living standards had fallen, the policies of the UK Government were more likely to be 'blamed' (57%) than those of the Scottish Government (17%). 

Views on the National Health Service in Scotland

  • The majority of people in 2019 (65%) were satisfied with how the National Health Service is running, while one-fifth (20%) were dissatisfied.
  • Despite overall satisfaction being high, when asked if the standard of the health service had increased or fallen in the last year, 45% of people thought the standard had fallen, 37% thought it had stayed the same and 9% thought it had increased. 
  • Of those who thought the standard of the health service had increased, over half (51%) said this was a result of Scottish Government policies, compared with 11% who said it was a result of UK Government policies. 
  • Among those who thought the standard of the health service had fallen, around one-fifth (19%) said this was a result of Scottish Government policies compared with 44% who thought it was a result of UK Government policies. 

Views on level of tax and spend and government priorities

  • Over half of people in Scotland (55%) thought the government should increase taxes and spend more on health, education and social benefits, compared with 37% who thought taxation and spending should be kept the same and 4% who thought taxation and spending should be reduced.
  • Over half of people (55%) agreed that the government should redistribute income from the better off to those who are less well off, compared with one-fifth (20%) who disagreed that they should.
  • Asked to choose what they thought the Scottish Government's priorities should be in 2019, the three priorities selected most often were: to help the economy to grow faster (23%), improve standards of education (18%), and improve people's health (17%).

Political engagement

  • A large majority thought it was important to vote in Scottish Parliament elections (94%), local council elections (91%) and UK Parliament elections (89%).
  • Around a quarter of people said they talk about politics every day (24%), 29% talk about it less often but at least a few times a week, around a fifth (21%) talk about it at least a few times a month, while 8% talk about it a few times a year. Around a fifth (17%) never talk about politics.
  • The most common way people had registered what they thought about an issue was by signing a petition, with 45% having done so in the last few years. Around 3 in 10 (28%) people had contacted their local council and 21% had given money to a campaign or organisation. Two-thirds of people (67%) had done at least one of the civic activities listed.

Contact

Email: social_research@gov.scot