Polls this week
Two polls have been published this week – one from TNS BMRB and a Survation poll, exclusively of women voters, both published on Wednesday 13 August. The TNS BMRB poll gave No a slight bump up to 45, no change for Yes at 32, and Don’t Knows down 4 to 23. This appears to show the beginning of voters coming off the fence – however as of yet, No appears to be benefiting more from this drop in undecided sentiment.
Survation’s poll, conducted for the Daily Record, shows a reasonably similar distribution between Yes and No to the TNS BMRB poll with fewer undecided voters, with No on 50, Yes on 34, Don’t Knows at 16. This would seem to indicate that female voters have come off the fence quicker than the voting Scottish population as a whole, but direct comparisons are difficult what with no exclusively male polling and the different companies conducting the polls.
Bank of England pulled into currency question
The Bank of England, and Governor Mark Carney specifically, have been drawn into the currency debate between the Yes campaign and pro-Union figures this week. Answering a question on the possibility of deposit flight from Scotland at a press conference on Wednesday morning, the Governor highlighted the risks to financial stability poised by continued uncertainty regarding Scotland’s currency plans.
Underlining the Bank’s goal for financial stability, Carney reiterated previous statements of the need for fiscal union to match and support a currency union. Speaking further than previously however, Carney said the Bank “will, as you would expect [it] to have, contingency plans for various possibilities,” adding that the Bank has “a wide range of tools and plans” regarding its “responsibilities for financial stability.”
SNP Finance Minister John Swinney jumped on these comments as evidence of the Bank’s planning for a Yes outcome and subsequent currency union. Perhaps biting off more than he could chew, Swinney added that the Scottish Government has had “technical discussions with the Bank of England regarding [the] proposal for a currency union.”
The Bank of England has issued a statement in response on Thursday afternoon, claiming that “the Bank of England has not entered into discussions with representatives of the Scottish Government about proposals for future monetary arrangements in Scotland.”
Academics disagree on economic viability of independence
Two economic advisers, Professors Ronald MacDonald and Sir Donald Mackay, have come out on opposite sides of the debate over the financial viability of an independent Scotland this week, with Mackay backing the Yes campaign while MacDonald cautions against a currency union.
University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy Professor Ronald MacDonald has written in an opinion piece in The Scotsman finding fault with the case for a currency union. Although he has voiced concern and caution before, MacDonald has now said it is “incumbent” on Salmond to tell the Scottish people what the Plan B is. He argues that greater clarity on this is of even greater importance given that “both formal currency union and lesser sterlingisation options present too many risks, uncertainties and additional costs to be viable.”
Meanwhile in a letter to the Scottish First Minister, former Scottish Enterprise Chairman and former Economic Adviser to the Scottish Secretary, Professor Sir Donald Mackay disputed North Sea oil figures published by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and claimed Scotland would be in a better financial position than the rest of the UK. Mackay based his calculations on figures produced by Oil & Gas UK forecasts claimed the OBR is “hopelessly at sea when it comes to forecasting the price of oil.”
Alex Salmond welcomed Mackay’s intervention: “This significant new analysis by one of the leading experts, Professor Sir Donald Mackay, blows a hole in the claims by the London Treasury who have continually underestimated Scotland’s oil assets.”
Second debate agreed
A second TV debate has been agreed between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling to be held on 25 August at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. It will be 90 minutes long and include an audience of 200 Yes, No and undecided voters. Unlike the first STV debate, this second clash will be organised by BBC and broadcast across the UK.
Debate rounds on defence questions
Attention has briefly turned this week to aspects of defence as the UK Government announced the Clyde shipyard location for a major MoD contract and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a report finding the relocation of Trident out of an independent Scotland to be not unfeasible.
On Tuesday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced that a contract to build three Offshore Patrol Vessels has been awarded to BAE Systems to build the ships in the firm’s Clyde shipyard. The contract is worth £348m and touted by the UK Government to protect more than 800 jobs in the Glasgow area. The announcement represents a significant long-term investment in Scotland and has thus been widely reported as a boon to the confidence of the No campaign; but sadly comes as the last remaining shipyard in the lower Clyde, Ferguson Shipbuilders, enters administration today.
Separately, the defence think tank RUSI published a report into the future of the nuclear Trident missile system on Thursday, finding that although Scottish independence would present a “significant challenge” to the UK’s nuclear forces, the costs of relocating the system to Plymouth, the report’s recommended location outside Scotland, is not insurmountable. The report finds “the technical and financial challenges presented by Scottish independence would… not be severe enough to dictate it,” calculating between £3-4bn as the cost of relocation.
On a lighter note
Better Together has claimed to have been so inundated with small donations following the STV debate that they have asked for people to stop. The Yes campaign expectedly responded by claiming the pro-Union campaign is in reality funded primarily by “billionaire bankers, property companies and Conservative Party supporters.”
Edinburgh Zoo’s giant panda, Tian Tian, is reportedly pregnant and expected to give birth later this month. The possibility of a third giant panda in Scotland has brightened the spirits of Yes supporters proud of Scotland’s deluge of pandas and have compared to its dearth of Conservative MPs. You can watch Tian Tian’s partner Yang Guang (the pregnant panda is reportedly sleeping a lot) on Edinburgh Zoo’s live ‘Panda Watch’ cam here.
Facebook users were given the opportunity to add the new ‘life event’ of “Registered to Vote” on their timelines from Tuesday, in a new coordinated effort between the Electoral Commission and the social media site. This campaign will include targeted ads by the Commission on Scottish Facebook users’ profiles promoting its interactive Referendum guide.
Both formal currency union and lesser sterlingisation options present too many risks, uncertainties and additional costs to be viable
The nationalists are stuck trying to explain to a bemused public why Scotland should leave the UK if there is so much of it they want to keep.
All the politicians in this campaign must realise that their political strategies may have serious financial consequences
Scotland’s pro-independence movement will outlive next month’s referendum
London’s dominance of the rest of the UK will be questioned regardless of the referendum outcome
Scotland is unlikely to vote for independence but, as many people have pointed out, this will be only the beginning of the problem
Photo: Scottish Government