Polls this week

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A series of polls were published last weekend and Monday to coincide with the start of the end, and last month, of the campaign. The three polls – from YouGov, Panelbase and ICM – all give the edge to the No camp by varying degrees, but the overall gains belong to the Yes campaign.

YouGov’s poll for The Times provided the highest percentage of No’s of the three polls, at 51% (-4), and a record high number of Yeses for a YouGov poll yet with 38% (+3). Excluding Don’t Knows, the two camps come out at 57% No and 43% Yes. The Panelbase poll, commissioned by Yes Scotland, predictably showed a much tighter race, with No down two at 46% and Yes up one on 42%. The picture doesn’t change when discounting the undecided, with No still ahead by only four at 52%, and Yes on 48%.

Contrastingly to both the YouGov and Panelbase polls, both of which show modest gains in the Yes camp and modest, yet greater, losses in the No camp; the ICM poll for Scotland on Sunday shows growth in both the Yes and No camps to 38% (+4) and 47% (+2), respectively. Along with other polls, ICM is now registering a significant drop in Don’t Knows, down seven points in this poll, to a still high 14%. Noteworthy is the result without these Don’t Knows: Yes at 45% and No at 55%.

The trends of these polls one month out from the referendum are reasonably clear: people are coming off the fence, as Don’t Know responses continue to drop. The Yes campaign appears to be benefiting more from this increasing decisiveness, however No continues to command the lead. Although these modest gains will brighten pro-independence spirits, is there enough time to gain enough for a win?

Stiglitz claims independent Scotland will get currency union…

Columbia University professor, Nobel Prize-winning economist and Fiscal Commission member Joseph Stiglitz has called Westminster’s objections to a currency union “bargaining, trying to change the politics of the electoral process.” Commenting during an interview at a conference in Germany, Professor Stiglitz said that “once they get independence, if that happens, then I think there would be a very different position.”

SNP Treasury Spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP welcomed Stiglitz’s comments, saying: “There is perhaps no economist in the world that is more respected than Professor Stiglitz and so his comments today are a stark reminder to the No camp that the experts – just like the people of Scotland – can see through their bluff on the pound.”

…as support for sterlingisation grows

Crawford Beveridge, the former head of Scottish Enterprise and current chair of the Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission, delivered a speech on Tuesday night in which he reiterated the Fiscal Commission’s support for a formal currency union, but voiced support for sterlingisation as a “mechanism which opens up other options over the long-term.”

Beveridge made the case that “people can choose to trade in whatever currency they wish,” echoing recent similar arguments made by Professor John Kay, explaining that Scotland would use the interest rate set by the Bank of England for the remaining parts of the UK. He highlighted that to effectively run a system of sterlingisation however, Scotland would need to establish a payments system, a prudential regulator and a bail-out function for its banking system.

More positively making the case for sterlingisation, the Adam Smith Institute has published a report on Thursday in favour of the unofficial adoption of the pound. The report makes the case that sterlingisation should be an independent Scotland’s Plan A, rather than Plan B, arguing that the independent country would thrive under a sterlingisation and a free banking model akin to Panama’s dollarisation system.

Sir Ian Wood questions SNP oil projections

Sir Ian Wood, founder of the oil services firm Wood Group and author of the offshore oil and gas recovery and regulation report the Wood Review, has said the SNP has over-estimated the amount of oil available from North Sea reserves. In the wide-ranging interview with Energy Voice, Sir Ian additionally accused both the Yes and No campaigns with “wildly inaccurate misquoting” of his Wood Review, claiming that Alex Salmond’s oft-cited claim that 24bn barrels of oil remain in the North Sea to be “45% to 65% too high.”

Wood said: “Based on the research and conversations within my review, and across the industry, I believe, that even with a more sympathetic tax and regulation framework, the likely best outcome, without new hydrocarbon regions being discovered, is between 15billion and 16.5billion barrels.”

Wood’s intervention took centre stage during Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions, the last to take place before voters head to the polls next month. Questioned by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont on Wood’s comments, Salmond repeatedly referred to Wood’s 2012 comments that there is enough oil and gas to see young people through their lifetimes before highlighting that Scotland additionally has 25% of the offshore renewable energy potential of Europe.

Scotland’s place in the European Union

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded project The Future of the UK and Scotland has published a paper saying that an independent Scotland would achieve EU membership. The report makes the case that as Scotland is already part of a Member State, its residents are EU citizens, the “writ of European law already runs in Scotland and its territorial location is of importance to the European Union for strategic and resource-based reasons,” Scotland’s future membership is in the EU interest. The paper argues that both the Scottish and UK Governments would “work to facilitate” Scotland’s re-joining of the Union as a new member state, but admits that Holyrood’s March 2016 timetable is “ambitious.”

This report and an ICM poll published on Monday showing two thirds of Scots believe an independent Scotland would be accepted into the EU have served as boons for the Yes campaign. SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP has compared the Yes campaign’s positive outlook on EU membership against “UKIP’s tune” in Westminster, saying “The message now is crystal clear – only a Yes vote can protect Scotland’s future in Europe.”

Sir Tom Devine comes out in support of independence

The preeminent Scottish historian has voiced his support for independence, claiming in an interview with the Observer on Sunday that “union of England and Scotland was not a marriage based on love. It was a marriage of convenience. It was pragmatic… Now, all the primary foundations of that stability have gone or been massively diluted.”

Participating in BBC Newsnight’s special Fringe Panel edition on Thursday night, Sir Tom additionally referred to Scotland’s more “resilient economic system” and the cultural and political variations between Scotland and the rest of the union as reasons further informing his decision.

Yes campaign turns to the NHS

Alex Salmond has made protection of the NHS a centre piece of the Yes message as the final month of campaigning begins. Salmond claimed in a speech in Arbroath on Monday that the “only guarantee – the only certain way of protecting our precious, publicly funded NHS – is independence.” Yes campaigners believe protection of the health system fits well into the Scandinavian-like social democratic values they claim are at the heart of an independent Scotland – values at odds with the direction of alleged ever-growing English conservatism.

However opponents of this argument highlight that Scotland already has completely independent full control of NHS Scotland under devolution. Former Scottish Government cancer strategy consultant Dr Anna Gregor has criticised comments made by fellow leading Scottish medical practitioner, surgeon Dr Philippa Whitford, claiming that NHS Scotland would “wither away within a decade without a Yes vote.” Dr Gregor has said: “”I take a very dim view of clinical colleagues using our highly privileged position of trust with the patient population and the community to politically scaremonger.”

Poll shows English voters seek hard line with Scotland following vote

Perhaps setting the stage for the day following the referendum, the Future of England Survey 2014 has found English voters seek to take a hard line with Scotland no matter the result of the vote. The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Economic and Social Research Council, found English voters support the refusal of the three main Unionist parties to enter into a currency union with an independent Scotland.

The survey additionally found over half of English voters believe Scotland should see its funding cut to the UK average following the delivery of a No vote, effectively ending the Barnett Formula, and overwhelming support was found to prevent Scottish MPs voting for England-only laws – indicating a desire to address the West Lothian Question. This survey’s results provide an indication of the tone of the post-referendum debate as attention turns to devolution, both to Scotland and the rest of the UK.

STV announces panel-style debate to follow BBC Salmond/Darling clash

STV has announced plans to host a third independence debate. The announcement comes just days before Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling meet for their second clash, hosted by BBC, on Monday 25 August at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

STV’s second debate, ‘Yes or No – The Debate’, will happen on 2 September and feature two opposing three-person panels rather than the head-to-head format used in STV’s first and Monday’s BBC debate. The STV panel debate will happen in front of a live audience of roughly 350 people at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

‘Yes or No – The Debate’ will be broadcast live on STV in Scotland from 20.00 on 2 September and repeated on ITV throughout the UK from 22.40 the same night.


John Birt in the Guardian: Scottish independence would have a devastating impact on the BBC

The former Director-General of the BBC writes that Scottish independence would have a “devastating impact” on the BBC’s budget and creative integrity.

Sam Bowman in City AM: How an independent Scotland can keep the pound – and have more stable banks

The Research Director for the Adam Smith Institute writes an op-ed on the back of his report making the case for sterlingisation.

Douglas Flint in the Telegraph: Scotland has to realise the pound has been a core part of its success

The Group Chairman of HSBC, writing in a personal capacity, says those who suggest shunning the benefits of the status quo are advocating a giant step into economic uncertainty.

The Herald View: Scottish vote has wider implications

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, there will be ramifications for the rest of the UK. The country looks to be entering a renewed period of constitutional flux and the debate on it is just beginning.

John McTernan in the Scotsman: Democracy is a referendum winner

The white paper, once the primary weapon of the Yes campaign, is not providing the answers that the voters want

John McDermott in the FT: The fruits of independence

The false threat to the Scottish NHS is calibrated to attract undecided left-leaning voters.


Photo: Scottish Government