4.1 SSA has tracked atttitudes to government and public services since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, through periods of constitutional change and the economic downturn of 2008. SSA 2015 fieldwork took place shortly after the the UK general election (May 2015) when the SNP won 56 out of the 59 constituency seats in Scotland. The Scottish independence referendum had taken place in September 2014 and this led to commitments by the UK Government to devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament. Against this context of recent political changes, this concluding chapter summarises key trends in public attitudes to government, the economy, standard of living and the health service over the past 15 years.
4.2 In 2015 attitudes to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament were particularly positive. For many measures, including thinking that having a Scottish Parliament gives ordinary people more say, having a Scottish Parliament gives Scotland a stronger voice in the UK and that the Scottish Government has the most influence over the way Scotland is run, the levels recorded in 2015 matched those of 1999. This suggests that the early expectations for the devolved institutions may have now been realised.
4.3 In 2015, people are equally likely to think that the UK Government and the Scottish Government have most influence over the way Scotland is run, a situation which has only been recorded on two previous occasions (1999 and 2011). A large majority still believe that the Scottish Government ought to have the most influence over the way Scotland is run and the level in 2015 is the highest level recorded since 1999.
4.4 Those who are the most likely to hold positive attitudes to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament are SNP supporters, those who support an independent Scotland, people interested in politics and those who identify as Scottish (rather than British).
4.5 The profile of the Scottish population has changed markedly in relation to key factors related to holding positive attitudes towards the Scottish Government. Between 2013 and 2015, the proportion of people in Scotland identifying as SNP supporters has nearly doubled and there has been a significant increase in the proportion supporting an independent Scotland.
4.6 SSA 2015 also found that the level of interest in politics has increased among people in Scotland (32% in 2013 said they had 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of interest in politics compared with 40% in 2015). As has been noted in other research, (for example, Crowther, 2015) this may have been a response to the debate on the Scottish independence referendum.
4.7 The NHS in Scotland, as in other parts of the UK, faces long-term challenges to meet increasing demands. Levels of satisfaction with the NHS remain high but at the same time there has been a significant increase in those believing that standards in the health service have fallen in the last year (31% in 2011 compared with 41% in 2015).
4.8 The economy continues to be the priority for government action chosen by the highest proportion of people, as it has been over the period 2008 to 2015. Views on the state of the economy have become more positive since 2013 and the proportion believing that the economy has strengthened has returned to the level first recorded in 2004.
4.9 Views on the general standard of living were less positive. The proportion believing that the general standard of living has increased in the last year is slightly higher than when measured in 2013 but was still substantially lower than the levels recorded before the economic downturn.
4.10 Consistent with previous years of SSA, those who think that the standard of living has increased and that the economy has strengthened are most likely to 'credit' these positive changes to the Scottish Government. Conversely, those who believe that standards have fallen and the economy has weakened are mo st likely to 'blame' the UK Government.
4.11 Attitudes to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament were particularly positive in 2015, particularly in relation to trusting the Scottish Government, believing that the Scottish Parliament gives ordinary people more say and giving Scotland a stronger voice in the UK. At the same time, views on the economy have continued to become more positive over the past three years. Yet there are still some challenges for the Scottish Government in relation to the health service and the standard of living. Fewer people in 2015 (compared with 2011) think that standards in the health service have improved and views on whether the standard of living has increased are still considerably less postive than views on the strength of the economy.
Email: Donna Easterlow
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