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Trust in UK Government on Covid has deteriorated most in Scotland, study finds

·4-min read

Scottish people are most likely to think the coronavirus pandemic has been dealt with badly and find Prime Minister Boris Johnson untrustworthy on Covid-19 issues, a new study has found.

Trust in the UK Government has deteriorated most in Scotland, according to research by the University of Bristol and King’s College London, while a majority of Scots (55%) believe the pandemic has been mishandled.

Across the rest of the UK, 51% of people in Wales, 45% of those in Northern Ireland and 40% in England also feel the pandemic has been handled badly.

A total of 55% of the Scottish public say the overall experience of the pandemic has decreased their level of trust in the UK Government – the same percentage who think it has been handled either fairly or very badly.

Just 8% of Scots said the overall experience has increased their trust in the Conservative Government at Westminster.

The increased distrust in Scotland is far higher than Wales (43%) and Northern Ireland (43%), while 34% of people in England said their trust in Mr Johnson’s Government had decreased.

An overwhelming majority of people across the UK believe the vaccine rollout has been handled well, although the Scottish Government is the worst-performing devolved administration in the eyes of its citizens.

A total of 14% of Scottish respondents said the rollout had been handled badly, compared to 8% of Welsh and 6% of Northern Irish residents who said the same of their governments. Seven per cent of English residents said the UK Government’s handling of the rollout had been handled not very well or not well at all.

The survey of 4,896 people aged 16-75 was carried out during the first 16 days of April.

A total of 72% of respondents in Scotland said they do not trust Mr Johnson on issues related to coronavirus and how we should be responding to it – far higher than the proportions of people in Wales (60%), Northern Ireland (51%) and England (47%) who hold the same view.

It is almost the reverse picture when it comes to views of Nicola Sturgeon, with two-thirds (66%) of people in Scotland trusting the First Minister on Covid-19, down just one percentage point since the last study carried out in November and December 2020.

However, the proportion who trust the SNP leader “a great deal” has declined over the same period, down from 33% to 27%.

Just over a quarter (26%) of Scots generally think the UK Government does the right thing – the lowest of the four home nations, and compared with 39% of the English public who hold this view.

Boris Johnson visit to Scotland
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is more trusted over her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland than Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the research found (Jane Barlow/PA)

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of King’s College London’s policy institute, said: “Scotland stands out as the most negative of the UK nations for ratings of the UK Government’s performance during the coronavirus crisis, and in particular in how this has affected their levels of trust in Westminster.

“To have over half of Scots saying they trust the UK Government less because of their experience of the pandemic is vital context to the Scottish parliamentary election, and to the longer-term challenges facing the United Kingdom.”

Dr Siobhan McAndrew, senior lecturer in quantitative social science at the University of Bristol, added: “Divergence across the home nations in evaluation of the UK and devolved governments’ handling the pandemic is very interesting to see, since vaccine clearance and vaccination procurement are centrally-governed, while rollout is primarily a devolved issue.

“The Scottish public are most likely to trust their own Government a great deal, as well as having the highest proportion saying their trust in the UK Government has fallen because of the pandemic.

“Perceptions of performance in relation to the pandemic appear to relate to political identification and trust as much as to appraisal of specific successes and failures.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “From the furlough scheme to vaccine procurement and the backing of our military personnel, the UK Government has been working tirelessly to support all parts of the country throughout the pandemic.

“Over 50 million people across the UK have now received their first vaccine dose, and the furlough scheme continues to support almost half a million jobs in Scotland.

“The UK Treasury has allocated the Scottish Government more than £14 billion in additional funding to protect lives and livelihoods, this is on top of the block grant and in addition to the extensive direct UK Government support in Scotland.”