Tom Costley analyses exclusive results which reveal 45% of Scots fear the country’s prospects would be worse under independence

The TNS BMRB poll on the Scottish economy throws up a number of interesting highlights on what is likely to be the most important practical issue on which Scots will base their referendum vote on September 18 next year.

The survey of 1017 adults in Scotland highlights a generally downbeat view about the economic prospects for an independent Scotland – 45% say it would perform worse (with 22% saying that things would be much worse) against 23% expecting a stronger economy.

Only about one in seven voters believes the economy would remain much the same in an independent Scotland. So the great majority expects that the economy would be changed by independence, and those making the case for a Yes vote have not succeeded in convincing Scots that this change will be for the better.

More surprisingly, voters are more definite in their views on how the economy will be impacted by independence than they are by the broader question, with more than four in five having an opinion on the subject. When asked how they would vote on independence, a significant 28% of people claimed they still did not know, but when asked if the economy would be stronger or weaker as result of the referendum vote, only 17% were unsure.

Men are significantly more upbeat about the economic prospects for an independent Scotland – 27% say that the economy would perform better, against 19% of women.

There is some variation in opinion between regions. Just over half (51%) of those living in the east and south of the country say that the economy would get worse after independence, with 24% saying it would be better.

This result might reflect the stronger influence in this area of those employed in the financial services sector, with its strong links to the City of London and recent experience of a UK-wide bailout of Scottish-based banks. There may also be concerns among businesses in this area about the potential impact on their cross-border trade.

Many of those arguing for a No vote say that the collapse of RBS and HBOS would have brought economic disaster on an independent Scotland, though independence supporters say that an independent Scottish government would only have been exposed to those banks’ operations within Scotland.

The role of financial services in the Scottish economy may also be a factor in the gap between the social grades, with only 17% of ABC1s – a number of whom may be employed in the sector – taking the optimistic view against 28% of C2DEs.

It is fair to say neither the Yes or No campaigns have yet set out clearly how the economy might develop in future years after the decisive vote.

This would be a difficult task at the best of times, let alone when the economy is struggling to recover from the recession that followed the global financial crash.

Both sides will have much more to say on the economy in the next 12 months. But with 22% of the electorate believing that the economy would perform much worse after independence, the Yes campaign faces a real battle to explain to voters how a better and stronger economy could be achieved.


Notes to editors:

  • A sample of 1,017 adults aged 16+ was interviewed in 71 constituencies across Scotland over the period 21st – 27th August 2013. 
  • All interviews were conducted face-to-face, in-home using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) and quota sampling. 
  • To ensure the sample was representative of the adult population of Scotland, it was weighted to match population profile estimates in the analysis.
  • Full data tables are available here. Please treat with caution those figures where the sample size – the unweighted base – is less than 50.
  • Respondents were asked: There will be a referendum on Scottish Independence on the 18th of September 2014. How do you intend to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes, No, Don’t know?
  • From August 2007 until January 2013, TNS polling on Scottish independence asked respondents the following question: The SNP are outlining their plans for a possible referendum on Scottish independence in the future. If such a referendum were to be held tomorrow, how would you vote? - I AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state. - I DO NOT AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state. - Don’t know.

About TNS BMRB: 
TNS BMRB is a leading provider of specialist social research, offering insight into public policy to government and not-for-profit clients. Delivering a range of approaches including bespoke proprietary research and consultancy, random probability survey capabilities, as well as social marketing and polling, our work informs policy makers across national and local Government at the highest level. TNS BMRB forms part of the Kantar group of companies. For more information please visit us on our website