“WE are the people,” the chant goes. But not, it seems, the people in power.
Rangers Football Club has only one supporter in the Scottish Parliament, at least according to an anonymous survey of MSPs carried out by this newspaper.
We surveyed just over one in three parliamentarians to get an idea of what they really think of things like God, cannabis, football, TV soaps and, yes, whether this country will ever be independent or not.
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The survey was completely confidential, allowing them to be free to say where their true footballing love lies and not repeat those little white political lies about backing an unfancied side which happens to be in their constituency.
Graph: Percentage breakdown of Holyrood, by football team supported
Yet just one said they supported Rangers, out of the 56 who completed our detailed but secret survey. That is roughly two per cent of parliament and the same as the figure the last time the same survey was carried out, in the old Scottish Parliament before this May’s election.
Even the revival of the True Blue Tories at the polls could do nothing to boost the support for the Light Blues in Holyrood.
Seven MSPs said they backed Rangers’ arch-rivals Celtic and six who say they back Premiership runners-up Aberdeen.
Such surveys, of course, are of a small number of people and so numbers should always be treated with caution. Our sample size is far from scientific, as pollsters like to say.
Four politicians said they supported Hearts – but none confessed a passion for Hibernian. Yet this year’s Scottish Cup winners have fans in Holyrood who may not have taken part in our survey. East Lothian MSP Iain Gray, for example, did not hide his delight when Hibs beat Rangers in last month’s final.
Football – and how it is policed – could be a contentious issue in parliament this term. Nearly one in three our our polled MSPs said they did not follow the game at all.
But what of other big controversies likely to face MSPs over the next five years? Take the big dividing line of Scottish politics, independence. Just over half of our elected politicians support ending the union. But how many of them think it will actually happen? Well, the results were almost inversely proportionate to those of the 2014 referendum. A total of 55 per cent of the MSPs polled expect Scotland to be independent within a decade, 45 per cent do not.
When MSPs in the last parliament were asked the same question, the majority for independence was slightly higher. Back then 60 per cent expected independence in 10 years. Some MSPs do, however, object to this question: they are not, they stress, fortune tellers and cannot see in to the future.
Such concerns also apply to another question: will the UK have a nuclear deterrent in a decade? Yes, say a clear majority of MSPs, around 70 per cent. That is down from 76 per cent in the last parliament, when roughly the same number of politicians took the same survey.
Survey: Nuclear Weapons
Another keystone issue of this parliament is whether Scots should pay more tax to offset the effects of austerity from the UK government. This is always a tough question. Last parliament only 30 per cent thought so. That figure has dropped to 17 per cent. In fact, unlike in the old Holyrood, a clear majority of respondents say No to new taxes. Does that mean parliament is getting more right wing? There are, after all, more Tories than Labour MSPs now. Old Tory Unionists were always thought to be Royalists. Perhaps, but only 30 per cent of our MSPs in principle support a monarchy, although that is up from 20 per cent last parliament.
Our MSPs, meanwhile, remain relatively conservative in their experience with drugs. The number who admit trying cannabis has dropped marginally from 32 per cent to 29 per cent.
Holyrood may well have to deal with some great moral issues this term. But will MSPs vote because of their faith? Scotland is one of the most secular nations in the world, with non-believers outnumbering the religious. That picture is not quite borne out in the sample. Just over 41 per cent said they believed in God, a few fewer said they did not and a fair number, like many Scots, just do not know.
But what of assisted suicide? MSPs are split right down the middle on this one, with many undecided.
Survey: Assisted Suicide
The Scottish Parliament mostly deals with domestic issues. But even they can have an international dimension. So how plugged in to the rest of the world are MSPs. Not any more than the general population, our survey finds. Only one in three can speak a language other than Scots, Gaelic or English.
Meanwhile, our evidence suggests politicians do not have time for TV: 73 per cent say they never see soaps, down from 76 per cent last term. Their favourite soap, though. That would be Coronation Street.