Let’s start with a bang, then.
Since nobody wants to define devo-max and the parties of the Union won’t let anyone vote for it anyway (preferring the “Oh, we’ll sort it out for you later, just trust us” argument they so often berate the SNP for), the independence referendum has a great big hole in it where a very substantial proportion of the population would like to be.
So while the press constantly talks about “more powers” (and repeats the falsehood that the London parties are committed to them) without ever saying what the phrase means, and as Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems frantically evade even making solid promises to think about them in the event of a No vote, we thought we’d cut straight to the chase and ask the Scottish people what they wanted.
Q: The three main anti-independence parties have said they’ll re-examine the devolution settlement in the event of a No vote in the referendum, and may consider passing more powers to the Scottish Parliament.
Which, if any, of the following powers do you think SHOULD be devolved to Scotland in the event of a No vote?
(Tick as many as apply.)
Welfare (eg benefits, pensions and things like the so-called bedroom tax): 60%
Control of oil revenues: 53%
Taxation (eg income tax, corporation tax and VAT): 52%
Defence (eg Scottish regiments, jobs and the siting of nuclear weapons): 35%
There should be no new powers: 19%
I believe the Scottish Parliament’s powers should be REDUCED: 6%
A surprise straight away, for our money – welfare is the thing Scots want controlled at Holyrood more than anything else, though oil revenues and taxation are also sought by a clear majority. (The formulation of the question deliberately allowed for passive Don’t Knows, so anything over 50% is significant.)
The most popular answer with Tories was “No new powers”, with a hefty 43% backing Ruth Davidson’s original “line in the sand” position, but 21% of Conservatives also shared the belief of the sizeable and vocal Labour faction – including Brian Wilson, Michael Kelly and Tam Dalyell – that thinks Holyrood is too big for its boots and needs reining in or even abolishing entirely.
That’s a whopping total of 64% of Scottish Tories who are against ANY new powers (27% of Labour voters and 26% of Lib Dems agree with them, as do an odd 11% of SNP voters), so it’s hard to see them pushing David Cameron too hard on the subject.
Perhaps the most unexpected figure at first glance is the low score for defence, until you think about it for a moment. Devolved, rather than independent, defence makes very little sense. You don’t want jurisdictional disputes if the Russians are storming towards Berwick, and Scotland could hardly unilaterally decide to get rid of Trident if it was still in the UK (or make major cuts in spending and leave the rest of the country to fill the holes). It’s all or nothing with defence powers.
But here comes the twist.
Q: “Better Together” chairman Alistair Darling recently said “If you want anything more than a fairly minor change to the constitutional arrangement then at some point you are going to have to ask the rest of the UK, which means that all the parties in a general election would have to have in their manifesto what they would intend to do”.
Which, if any, of the following powers do you believe the UK Parliament would be LIKELY to devolve to Scotland in the event of a No vote?
(Tick as many as apply.)
Welfare (eg benefits, pensions and things like the so-called bedroom tax): 21%
Taxation (eg income tax, corporation tax and VAT): 14%
Control of oil revenues: 8%
Defence (eg Scottish regiments, jobs and the siting of nuclear weapons): 7%
None of the above: 48%
I believe they will REDUCE the powers of the Scottish Parliament: 19%
These are some quite astonishing numbers, readers. Scottish voters simply aren’t swallowing the “jam tomorrow” promises of the Unionist parties. An astounding 67% of Scots believe that a No vote will result in either no new powers, or FEWER powers, for the Scottish Parliament.
Surprisingly, given that all three UK parties have so far talked solely of possible concessions on taxation, that’s not the thing people think is most likely to be devolved, with welfare scoring the highest at a still-pitiful 21%, well clear of tax on 14%.
(A technical point: it wouldn’t actually be possible under EU law to devolve VAT. We knew that, but left it in the question anyway for illustrative purposes and because, hey, who knows if the UK would still be in the EU by the time any new powers were devolved? Even the current Scotland Act isn’t due to take effect until 2015, seven years after the Calman Commission first sat.)
Perhaps tellingly, there’s a big divide among respondents who chose the “None of the above” option. SNP, Labour and Green voters are almost inseparable, with around 44% of each gloomily predicting we’d get nothing for a No.
Supporters of the two parties currently in power in the House Of Commons, however, are much more pessimistic – 61% of Tories and 63% of Lib Dems can’t see Westminster giving Scotland anything if it rejects independence. You have to wonder what they know that we don’t.
We’re going to say it again before we go, because it’s a gobsmacking result: just a third of Scottish voters think ANY new powers will actually be devolved in the event of a No vote, and two thirds think we’ll get nothing or worse.
And when we asked people to think about that, they told us something else.
Q: If Scotland was currently an independent country, would you vote to surrender control of taxation, welfare, defence and oil revenues in order to join the Union?
Don’t Know: 28%
This is a question posed rhetorically by Yes Scotland a year ago, but we doubt even they expected such a striking answer. By a huge margin – over three to one – Scots who’ve made up their mind would NOT vote to join the Union today, with over a quarter unsure (but irrelevant, with votes against the UK already comfortably past 50%).
While they were unsurprisingly the keenest, even Tories couldn’t muster an absolute majority of “Yes To The Union” supporters, breaking 46 to 31 with 23% undecided. Only 23% of Labour voters would merge an independent Scotland with the rest of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2013, with more than twice as many (47%) opposed.
Lib Dems were even more comprehensively against at 16 to 54, and as you’d expect hardly any SNP voters were in favour, with a crushing 73% against and only 8% for. Every single age group also scored at least 50% against, with over-65s the most pro-Union (23%) and under-25s the most undecided (33%).
It just goes to back up something we’ve been saying for months and which has been supported by several previous polls, ruling out any reasonable suggestion that this is a freak result: most Scottish people want independence, except when you call it that.
This site said back in May that the No camp’s endless “fear, uncertainty and doubt” attacks on specific issues were irrelevant and that Yes Scotland had to successfully make just two arguments to win – that Scotland would get nothing for a No vote, and that the name of the thing Scots already actually wanted was independence.
It looks like the first of those is fairly conclusively in the bag already – almost nobody’s being fooled by the cryptic, evasive hints from the Unionist parties about some vague manner of possible extra powers, maybe, sometime, if England allows it. Squaring the second circle in the next 13 months is the Yes campaign’s biggest task.
All that’s quite a bit to take on board, so we’ll let you mull it for a while. We’ve got a whole heap of fun facts and figures still to come, so clear your diaries.
*All figures are rounded to the nearest whole number. Figures may not add up to 100%, either due to rounding or the type of question.