As the Scottish independence referendum draws nearer, Cicero is pleased to share our third weekly Scottish digest. This edition outlines the latest polling average, Cameron’s call for greater noise from the ‘silent majority’ of Scots opposing independence, and provides a round-up of the other top stories and opinion pieces from the Scottish and wider media this week.
This week’s latest polls
On Tuesday a YouGov poll for The Times placed Yes on 35%, No on 54% with 12% either undecided or not intending to vote. With Don’t Knows excluded Yes sit on 39% with No on 61%.
This poll will provide cheer for the Better Together campaign, though it is broadly in line with other YouGov polls as it has consistently been one of the polling firms showing the most decisive No leads.
This was the subject of a detailed analysis by YouGov President Peter Kellner, who poses the question ‘Why do the polls in Scotland vary so much?‘ Kellner contrasts the methodologies of those pollsters showing clear No leads with those who report a much closer race. The key differences he identifies are in the weighting of samples by ‘recalled past voting’ behaviour, which he suggests is unreliable, and the possibility of too many “passionate Nats” being included in some pollsters panels.
Meanwhile, Professor John Curtice’s latest ‘Poll of Polls’ published on 29 June shows an average of 43% for Yes and 57% for No. This represents a two per cent swing towards No since the last Poll of Polls.
Cameron calls on “silent majority” to speak out
On a visit to Scotland on Thursday, the Prime Minister delivered a speech urging the “silent majority” of Scots who are opposed to independence to make their voices heard. He said it is possible to “be a patriotic Scot and vote No”.
Cameron also used his visit to announce that Glasgow will become the first Scottish city to benefit from City Deal status, which will see the UK Government invest £500m in infrastructure projects in the city, such as a new city centre-airport rail link.
The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will match this £500m investment, while a further £130m will also be made available by local authorities in the region. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “As well as matching the UK government funding now, we will also guarantee this funding to Glasgow when Scotland becomes independent”.
Swinney sets out alternative to austerity
Scotland’s Finance Secretary John Swinney used a visit to the Dundee Waterfront Regeneration to pledge that in an independent Scotland, the Scottish Government would seek to invest an additional £1.2bn in the Scottish economy in 2017-18 and a further £2.4bn in 2018-19. He contrasted this with current plans from Westminster which he said could see further cuts of around £2.5bn in Scotland after 2015.
Swinney said that in the first year of independence, Scotland’s balance sheet would broadly match the UK’s, with public sector debt falling as a share of GDP. He said this would present an “opportunity to do things differently”, citing areas such as investment in infrastructure and delivering “transformational childcare policies”.
New analysis of Scottish banking sector under independence
The Banker has published analysis of Scotland’s banking sector, suggesting that in the event of a Yes vote the Scottish economy would be in danger of being destabilised by its banks. The analysis, in line with previous Treasury figures, suggests that an independent Scotland would have banking assets more than 12 times the size of Scottish GDP, presenting a “significant risk for the country’s economic stability”.
The editor of The Banker Brian Caplen said: “Had it been independent during the financial crisis, there is little doubt that an independent Scotland would have been devastated and forced to turn to the IMF for help”.
However, a Scottish Government spokesperson described the figures as “outdated” and said that they artificially inflate the size of Scotland’s bank assets by including investment banking activity “which takes place almost exclusively in London”.
Competing analyses of independent Scottish finances published
The pro-independence Business for Scotland group has suggested that an independent Scotland could reap a dividend of £3.5bn. They highlight areas such as defence, civil service costs, tax collection and border services in which they believe that Scotland could make significant savings after a Yes vote. They highlight that “even moderate savings of £30m and £20m in tax and border administration equates to £250m over a Parliament”.
However separate analysis carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has indicated that, even on the best estimates for tax and spending, Scotland would be likely to face a budget shortfall of around £4bn in the first year after independence. This is not dissimilar to their findings for the UK as a whole, where they forecast an £82bn deficit. They also stressed that this is not a complete picture of what Scotland’s opening financial position would be, as this would partly be determined by negotiations with the remaining UK.
City of London lawyers contemplate ‘decade of work’
The Chairman of the City of London Law Society, Alasdair Douglas, has suggested that Scottish independence could be good for the City as it would keep Scottish and City lawyers “enormously busy for at least a decade”. He said there could be a “tsunami of work” advising businesses, government and regulators on both sides of the border and further afield on the implications of independence.
Mr Douglas was speaking at an event organised by Edinburgh-based law firm Tods Murray on the implications of independence for business. His views were not universally endorsed however, with other representatives highlighting uncertainty over investment decisions, currency and foreign exchange.
A survey at the event found that just over half thought independence would be bad for business, compared to a fifth who thought it would be good.
Top Comment Pieces
Jack McConnell and Jim Wallace in The Herald: Keeping a vibrant Scotland in a flourishing UK is the correct option
Write the former First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Scotland.
Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell in The Guardian: Scotland’s independence is left in the hands of a ‘middle million’ of switherers
With a third of Scottish voters undecided, both sides of the debate still have all to play for as September’s vote approaches.
John Kay in the Financial Times: A British identity crisis has hobbled the No campaign
The real question is whether Scots also feel loyal to the UK.
Charles Kennedy in The Herald: A harsh political fallout in EU is likely after a Yes vote
A great deal of referendum campaign heat, if less light, has been generated over a future, independent Scotland’s role in the EU.
Alex Salmond in The Scotsman: Bannockburn is birthplace of Scotland
Amid criticism of the Bannockburn event, First Minister Alex Salmond hails the celebration and its importance to Scotland 700 years after the fight.
Listen: The Spectator debate
With George Galloway MP, Ian Murray MP, Annabel Goldie MSP, Jeane Freeman, Blair Jenkins and Andrew Wilson.
Image: Stuart Anthony