Today’s Financial Times (£) carries details of a new FT/Populus poll that reveals a majority of English and Welsh people want Scotland to stay as part of the UK. But the detail of the poll reveals some interesting differences of opinion about a number of issues at stake in the referendum campaign.
Here, Populus Managing Director Rick Nye explores those differences in more detail:
This poll unmasks some intriguing gaps between the rhetoric used during the referendum campaign to date in Scotland and the reality of public opinion in the rest of Britain.
Take the issue of the Pound. Three fifths of Scots think an independent Scotland should be allowed to use it, two in five support this proposition strongly but in England two thirds of people there oppose sharing the Pound with an independent Scotland and nearly a half do so strongly. South of the border the Pound seems to be more than just a symbol. It poses a larger question: why should the rest of the UK continue to bear the economic risks and underwrite the borrowing and spending decisions of Scotland once it has opted to vote for independence.
This is more than just an academic point. While Scots divide evenly on whether their economy would be stronger in an independent country, the rest of Britain has no such doubts. More than four out of five English and Welsh believe the rest of the UK would be economically stronger than an independent Scotland. And while nearly three fifths of Scots think the rest of the UK gets more public spending per head of population, two thirds of English people think the opposite is true. Little wonder then that while a half of Scots admit that most of their compatriots will regret it in five years’ time if they vote for independence, this figure climbs to four out of five when that same question is posed of the English.
So while slightly more than half of England says it hopes that Scotland votes to remain part of the UK (a smaller proportion than the 70% of English and the two thirds of Scots who expect Scotland to vote “No”), if Scottish voters confound their own expectations and vote for independence in September this poll suggests they may have to reckon with English public opinion not just intransigent English politicians when negotiating the terms of their separation.