Politicians like to think they know the word on the street. Just not on Coronation Street.

That is because - despite their efforts to look and sound like the rest of us - Scotland's MSPs really are a breed apart. Three-quarters of them never watch soaps. Never ever.

Fair enough. Politicians are, after all, busy people. They don't have time to keep with the latest goings-on in the Queen Vic, the Rovers Return or The Tall Ship. And - cynics will point out - there is probably more than enough intrigue and scandal in the drinking dens of Holyrood and Westminster to keep them entertained.HeraldScotland: Pudsey actor Jack P Shepherd with the Coronation Street cast

Does it matter that those we represent don't have typical telly viewing habits? Politicians, after all, tend to be far better educated and more middle-class than average. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

But how do I know what MSPs tune in to after a hard day politicking? Well, I asked them.

This winter The Herald did a confidential survey of all our 129 MSPs, their views on everything from assisted suicide and the monarchy to football and soaps.

Fifty-three responded...although, because our ballot was strictly secret, we don't know which ones. That is about two out of five answering my pesky questions. Not, of course, enough for a scientific study.

But given that many politicians really really don't like surveys, it isn't a bad wee glimpse behind the curtains of Holyrood.

So those soaps? Here is how MSPs voted: HeraldScotland:

Eastenders comes out favourite with four fans in Holyrood, compared with two each for Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Scotland's only indigenous recurring drama, River City.

Poor Hollyoaks wasn't even in the running: no MSP admitted, even in confidence, that it was their favourite soap.

Earlier this year I asked this same question of Scotland's newly elected MPs. The result - on a smaller sample - was similar.

Half said they did not watch soaps. There was two little differences: first Coronation Street was by far the most popular series among MPs; and, second, one honourable member fessed up to a passion for Hollyoaks.

HeraldScotland: EastEnders provides this year's soap Christmas baby involving Kush Kazemi (Davood Ghadami), Shabnam Masood (Rakhee Thakrar), Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner) and Martin Fowler (James Bye)

But I put serious questions to the MSPs too. All mirroring those we asked MPs earlier this year.

I guess we should start with the big story of modern Scottish politics. Independence. Now, we know how MSPs split on whether they want a Scottish state or not. But we don't know whether they secretly think such a state will ever exist.

So I asked how many of them thought Scotland would be independence within a decade. Well, the Ayes have it, by roughly three votes to two, as the following table shows:

HeraldScotland: True, one or two of our MSPs think this was an unfair question. They have a point. Politicians, just like the rest of us, don't have crystal balls. And, of course, most of them didn't take part in the poll so it's possible all those who predicted indy in a decade are card-carrying fully-paid-up Independentistas. For what it is worth, our survey of MPs - where the nationalists have a much bigger majority - came out with more than 90 per cent predicting full independence by 2025.

What about that other great issue of our days, the replacement of Trident missile subs on the Clyde? I asked if MSPs thought the UK would have a nuclear deterrent - not necessarily Trident - in a decade.

HeraldScotland: HMS Victorious, part of the Trident nuclear fleet

The result - below - shows another three-to-two victory, this time for the UK still to have some kind of a bomb in 2025 (even if the British state in its current borders no longer exists).



But enough of questions which require crystal-ball-gazing. What about the great moral, social and religious issues of our age. Scotland has already legalised same-sex marriages. Holyrood has debated assisted suicide. Now it will have powers to decide whether current abortion laws can change. These are tough questions that rarely happen to coincide with party lines. So how religious is our parliament?


HeraldScotland: A Pardoning God



I asked MSPs how many believed in God. This is how they answered.



Thus, just like the rest of society, Holyrood is split between believers, non-believers and, well, the not so sure. Just over a third of MSPs say believe in God, when asked in private. Out-and-out theists are, therefore, in something of a minority. How will this affect policy-making? Let's take a classic moral decision: whether to back assisted suicide. This is what MSPs said:

HeraldScotland: A dead heat. And with a substantial block of people who either replied that they did not know how to vote or who skipped the question. To be fair, it's a tough one.


HeraldScotland: A library picture of a cannabis plant

There have been calls this winter for drugs laws to be devolved to Scotland. Top of the agenda: decriminalising cannabis in moves echoing those of several other countries, including Portugal, Uruguay and, more recently, Ireland.

But how many MSPs have actually tried a bit of hash or grass? First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats have all come clean to trying the drug in their youth. They are, at least according to our survey, in a minority.



Yes, under a third of those who answered the question admitted using cannabis. Nearly two thirds didn't. But fully 10 surveyed MSPs skipped the question, despite knowing they were anonymous. Cannabis is still sensitive, it seems. How many Scots have taken cannabis? Hard to say, of course. Some nationwide surveys suggest a third of MSPS might not be that untypical. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.


HeraldScotland: Biker banned for driving with cannabis in his system

MSPs all have to swear an oath to the Queen before they take their seats in Holyrood. Her Majesty may wish to look away now if she happens to be doing The Herald the honour of reading this. Because Scottish politicians' declarations may not be in entirely good faith. Here is how many MSPs back the monarchy: HeraldScotland:

Yes, in an ideal world, four out of five MSPs would be republican. Of course, it's possible our sample was unusually skewed towards the anti-royal faction of Scotland's main parties. But there is corroboration. Earlier this year I asked the same question of MPs. Perhaps reflecting their bigger SNP contingent, they were even more republican: only five per cent favoured a monarchy.


HeraldScotland: The Queen at the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Attard, Malta


There is one question I am particularly interested in. How international an outlook do Scotland's MSPs have? I have no idea how to measure this. Scottish politicians - after all - tend to focus on the narrow (but widening) domestic powers of the current Holyrood devolution settlement.

But if they were to take a bigger interest in the rest of the world, could they actually talk to people outside the Anglosphere? So, as a crude measure of the global awareness of our politicians, how many of them have a foreign language?



This result is better than I expected. Fully 37 per cent of those who answered the question said they could speak a foreign language. That would be terrible in the parliament of, say, one of the Nordic nations with which the SNP, in particular, likes to compare Scotland. But it's roughly in line with UK-wide estimates of foreign-language acquisition. Of course, I didn't drill down in to how WELL they could speak those foreign languages.

In all fairness, there is no accepted definition of what it means to "speak" a language never mind to do so "fluently", whatever that means.


For what it is worth, I doubt one in three MSPs would agreed to, for example, give a television interview in one of the languages they say they can speak.

Now for a rare look at the real division in Scottish society: football. I asked MSPs what team they cheer for on a Saturday afternoon.

As the table below shows, more than 30 per cent don't follow Scotland's most popular game. But of those who do, or say they do, support is pretty evenly spread.


Were you surprised Rangers only gets one "vote" in Holyrood? It may still be one Scotland's two most supported clubs - despite its recent travails - but the Ibrox side lags behind Celtic, Aberdeen, Hibs and both Thistles, Caley and Partick, in our MSP league table.

HeraldScotland: Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates after scoring against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Picture: PA

So, one last question, and it's a stinker.

Our sample of MSPs, at least in the privacy of an anonymous survey, are both divided and unsure about whether Scots should pay more taxes to compensate for Tory cuts


Maybe, in that, they really do reflect public opinion? Or maybe not? Have a view? Leave a comment below.