The outcome of Scotland’s independence referendum will boil down to economics rather than a sense of national identity, according to research.
• Study shows 53% of ‘Scots, not Brits’ want to leave UK.
• 34% believe economy would fare better under independence and 29% think worse.
Just over half (53%) of people who describe themselves as “Scottish, not British” said they want to leave the UK, according to the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen).
But the economic consequences of independence feature more prominently in people’s decision to support or reject independence, ScotCen’s analysis of the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey concluded.
The report follows two studies by international macroeconomics firm Capital Economics this week which predicted that independence could carry an economic cost for both Scotland and the remainder of the UK.
Despite conflicting economic projections by think-tanks and parties on both sides of the debate, ScotCen found that neither side has won the economic argument in the eyes of voters.
Its report, written by Strathclyde University professor of politics John Curtice, found that 34% think Scotland’s economy would fare better and 29% believe it would do worse under independence.
The report states: “People’s willingness to support independence does not solely depend on whether or not they have a strong sense of Scottish identity.
“It also depends on what they think would be the consequences of becoming independent, including, above all, the economic consequences.
“It would appear that the eventual outcome of the referendum could well turn on which side is thought by the Scottish public to have the better of the economic argument - an argument that neither side seems as yet to have won or lost in their eyes.”
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “A key finding of this research is that far more people hold the view that the Scottish Parliament should be taking all the decisions for Scotland.
“This is what being independent means and I have no doubt following recent events including the cut to family benefits and credits that will make a million Scots households worse off, that now even more Scots will choose Scotland over Westminster.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The report shows that the economy is the key factor but the SNP simply haven’t shown a credible case, despite all the time they have had to prepare one.
“Strikingly, most people think that taxes would go up in an independent Scotland.”
The latest Capital Economics report predicted that the UK Government will demand the lion’s share of North Sea oil revenues, compensation for removing nuclear weapons and impose tough fiscal rules for the use of sterling if Scotland becomes independent.
But Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said the analysis was “deeply flawed, riddled with ill-informed guesswork, unsubstantiated claims and basic errors”.
Mr Swinney said the think-tank’s claims about oil revenues display “ignorance of the international legal principle of geographical share of offshore assets” and said Scottish exports, including oil and gas, would benefit sterling if the currency union was maintained.