New poll shows Scots getting nervous on economy

Just 27% of women, who are targeted by both sides, now support independence

A St Andrew’s or Saltire flag, the national flag of Scotland, flies alongside a Union flag above a shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A St Andrew’s or Saltire flag, the national flag of Scotland, flies alongside a Union flag above a shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 01:00

The number of Scots who believe that Scotland’s economy would be worse off if they vote Yes in the September independence referendum has increased significantly over the last year, it has emerged.

The latest Scottish Social Attitudes figures come from ScotCen Social Research, which has been carrying out detailed tracking of Scots’ opinions on independence since 1999.

Meanwhile, women,who are being increasingly targeted by both sides in the final weeks of the campaign, are still reluctant to vote Yes because they are “less certain of the consequences”. Just 27 per cent of women now support independence, compared with 39 per cent of men: the 12 percentage point gap is the highest found in a Scottish Social Attitudes survey and double the 2013 figure.

Forty four per cent now believe that the economy would be worse under independence – a 10-percentage points increase on 2012 and 2013. The importance of the economic question for voters is illustrated by the fact that 83 per cent of people who believe independence would be good for Scotland’s economy are voting Yes, compared with 50 per cent in 2012.

However, the research highlights the gulf emerging between some Scots: two-thirds of Yes voters believe independence would be good for Scotland’s economy. Just 3 per cent of No voters accept that.

Despite the focus placed on social equality by the Scottish National Party, 30 per cent believe that the gap between rich and poor would widen after independence, compared with 25 per cent who believed so last year.

Meanwhile, 38 per cent now believe that Scotland’s “voice in the world” will be weaker after a Yes vote, compared with 25 per cent a year ago and 22 per cent in 2012.

Nevertheless, the Yes campaign will take comfort from the finding that the numbers saying they will vote Yes has increased by three points, up from 36 per cent to 39 per cent. Mirroring a series of other findings, Scottish Social Attitudes – which polled in May and June – found that 29 per cent say they are still undecided.

Ironically, perhaps, the two-year referendum debate has reawakened a sense of Britishness among some Scots, which had been declining in strength for decades.

When forced to choose one single identity, 23 per cent opt for British – up eight percentage points on three years ago. The number who define themselves as Scottish only has fallen from 75 per cent to 65 per cent. Just 23 per cent of Scots now say that they are Scottish, not British – the lowest it has been since 1999, while 32 per cent say they are “equally Scottish and British”. This, too, is the highest result since 1999.

Interestingly, 58 per cent of those who would prefer to vote for significant extra devolution for Scotland, rather than be asked to decide on independence, intend to vote, up from 44 per cent last year.

“More voters have, in fact, become nervous about the consequences of leaving the UK,” says Prof John Curtice, co-director of Scottish Social Attitudes survey at ScotCen Social Research, said.