Tuesday, 19 July 2016

See's a pound, son

The Scottish Government is starting to make noises about a currency for an independent Scotland...with the predictable response of the Tories that 'the SNP want to take the pound from your pocket.'

The media are stuck in their old trope - that it was love of the pound that saved the Union in the September 2014 Referendum.

In fact, as Rob Johns at the University of Essex showed in a fascinating and detailed analysis after the Referendum, the pound was only one of a number of factors.

Dr Johns uses data from two large-scale (n=5,000) studies prior to the Scottish Referendum. He shows that voters in Scotland thought it likely, back then, that if Scotland stayed in the Union, the UK would vote to leave the EU. They felt it was likely that the gap between rich and poor would grow wider, and that welfare benefits would go down.

In other words, prior to the September 2014 Referendum, voters were already factoring in these consequences of staying in the Union.

But 42% of voters said it was unlikely that they, personally, would be better off if Scotland became independent, against 23% who felt that it was likely. Combine this with the fact that older people intended to vote no (around 70% of the 70+ age group intended to vote no) and you had a No-wins combination. 

Keeping the pound was a small part of the picture, and may be linked to the willingness to take risks in general. Yes voters were much more willing to take a risk than No voters. No voters felt that there was a danger that they would lose out in an independent Scotland.

So it's not about the pound. It's about whether we can show the voter, especially older voters and women, that they will be better off (or at least, not worse off), in an independent Scotland.

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