The debate about Scotland’s future is partly about people’s perceptions about who they feel they are: their sense of national identity. Those who feel a Scottish identity and little, if any, sense of being British are much more likely to say they will vote Yes than are those whose primary sense of belonging is to Britain as a whole. To that extent, it is clear some people in Scotland at least have relatively little affective commitment to the maintenance of the United Kingdom as currently constituted.
However, the debate is not just about identity. Even those who feel strongly Scottish are not universally inclined to vote Yes. Meanwhile many feel a dual sense of identity, that they are both Scottish and British, leaving it far from clear how they might express their sense of belonging in a referendum that would seem to ask them to choose between the two. In these circumstances, it perhaps should not surprise us that the practical consequences of independence are apparently playing an important role in people’s minds when it comes to deciding whether to vote Yes or No. They would seem to need to bring other considerations to bear in order to make their choice one way or another. And of those possible considerations, it appears to be the perceived economic consequences of leaving or staying in the UK that matter most in voters’ minds.
That suggests that whichever way Scotland eventually votes, the outcome will need to be interpreted with caution. Doubtless the victors will be inclined to claim either that Scotland has shown its commitment to the future of the Union, or that it has proven that it wants to govern itself just like any other nation does. The reality is likely to be more prosaic – the outcome will represent voters’ best judgement as to which way prosperity appears to lie. Consequently, if Scotland votes Yes and independence proves to be economically disadvantageous, many a voter may well come to regret their decision. But equally if Scotland votes No, it will have signalled that it is willing to stay in the Union in the expectation that the United Kingdom will look after and promote its material interests; the future cohesion of the Union will then depend on whether that expectation is fulfilled.
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- Much the same pattern of response was obtained when three of the four questions (on the economy, the standard of living and taxes) were previously asked on the 2011 and 2012 surveys.
- Bases for Table 3.4 are as follows:
The picture was much the same when the question was also asked in 2012: then 47 per cent said it would not make any difference, 25 per cent that the gap would be bigger and just 19 per cent that it would be smaller.
Bases for Table 3.10 are as follows:
Note that neither sex, age or social class proved to be significant independently of the considerations that were included in the model. So the gender, age and class differences identified earlier in the chapter simply reflect differences between these groups in the incidence of identity and/or perceptions of the consequences of independence.
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