More than three quarters of English Tory ‘Leave’ voters believe that Brexit is more important than keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom and would sacrifice the Scots if it came down to a choice, according to a new poll.

The research by respected Conservative pollster Lord Ashcroft found that 76 percent of Tory voters who opted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum would put Brexit first, even if it meant that Scottish independence was the price to pay. 

A slightly smaller number of 74 percent said the same about Northern Ireland.

In contrast, only 48 percent of Labour ‘Leave’ voters said they would be willing to see Scotland go in order to ensure Britain left the EU. Overall, across all party affiliations, 36 percent of English voters said they would prioritize Brexit over keeping Scotland in the union, while 45 percent of all voters said keeping Scotland was more important.

Scottish Tories had earlier sought to downplay the significance of a YouGov poll in June which found that 63 percent of Tory voters would be willing to see an independent Scotland if it meant Brexit went ahead.

The polls also found that 43 percent believed that one way or another Brexit had made Scottish independence more likely, with most believing that Scotland would probably vote for independence in the next few years whether Brexit was happening or not. Meanwhile, 23 percent said Brexit would not make a difference to the issue of Scottish independence.

Polls have shown that Scots are still very divided on the issue of independence. Earlier this month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would request consent from London for a second independence referendum in a “matter of weeks” after a new poll showed support for independence was at 50 percent.

The new research also revealed that many English voters believe that Scotland and Northern Ireland benefit more from the union than the rest of the UK. That belief is most common among Conservatives who voted to leave the EU, the pollster said. Interestingly, respondents were slightly more inclined to think Scotland benefits disproportionately from its place in the union than Northern Ireland.

Ashcroft said many English ‘Leave’ voters saw parallels between Scots’ desires to leave the UK with their own desire to leave the EU, with one saying it was “similar in the way we want to control our own destiny.”

“Scotland want their independence, we want our independence from the EU for roughly the same reasons… Taking back control,” the voter said. That view is somewhat surprising, since generally speaking pro-Brexit Conservatives are thought to be very strongly attached to the concept of the ‘union’ and unlikely to want to see it break up.

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On the question of Northern Ireland, some acknowledged that many feel that the entire island of Ireland should be reunited. “There’s water separating England and Ireland. So if Northern Ireland became part of Ireland, that’s Ireland, one whole country,” one said.

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