- 41% of Scottish businesses chose independence related options as their preferred form of governance for Scotland.
- 17% chose Devo Max.
- 28% chose the status quo.
- 12% want to close the Scottish Parliament.
Business for Scotland has commissioned independent research to take the pulse of Scottish businesspeople on the referendum and related issues. This in-depth research was conducted and compiled on our behalf by a neutral research company * over the past six months. This research involved direct engagement with businesspeople through their companies but also involved independent business networks across Scotland.
We have now received over 1,200 responses from businesspeople representing most industrial sectors throughout Scotland. The results make for interesting reading and give an indication of the ground upon which the referendum will focus in the next six months.
All survey results are influenced by how the questions are framed. We have taken great care to frame our questions in a way that is fair.
Our main question asked a cross-section of Scottish businesspeople to indicate who they believe should make decisions about the future of Scotland. The survey sample’s weighting reflected the fact that 99.3% of the Scottish private sector is in Small and Medium Enterprises (as opposed to large institutions). In the business community, we believe it is this question and these type of businesspeople which will most influence the result in September.
Our survey offered five descriptions which match the options we describe as A. “old school independence” (which the No Campaign falsely portrays as an option in September’s referendum), B. “modern independence” with the inevitable interdependency and interconnectivity of a globalising world, C. devo-max (whereby Scotland raises all its own taxes and sends a cheque south for shared services within a single UK state), D. the status quo, and E. an option to close the Scottish Parliament and transfer all powers back to Westminster (as opposed to some of the temporary media influences on opinion polls and research at this juncture six months to referendum day).
This question was articulated as follows:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view on who should make government decisions?
A: An elected Scottish Parliament should make ALL the decisions that affect Scotland and all formal ties with the other home nations (e.g. currency and defence etc.) should cease – 9%
B: An elected Scottish Parliament should make ALL the decisions that affect Scotland, whilst maintaining a common market, and appropriate currency and social/cultural ties with the other home nations – 32%
C: Westminster (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) should make decisions about Defence (including nuclear weapons and declarations of war), Foreign Affairs (including managing relations with other countries and forming cultural and trade alliances), the devolved Scottish Parliament should decide everything else (including taxation and welfare reform) – 17%
D: Westminster should make ALL decisions that affect Scotland in the areas of Defence, Foreign Affairs, the majority of taxation issues and welfare reform but a devolved Scottish Parliament should decide on other matters – 28%
E: Westminster should make ALL decisions for Scotland and the Scottish Parliament should be dissolved – 12%
F: Don’t know – 2%
The type of independence as defined by the Scottish Government and upon which voters will be asked to choose against a No vote was the most popular option on 32%. The combined percentage of “old-school independence”, “modern independence” and “devo-max” (which probably would have been an option for voters if the UK Government had not intervened) is 58%. In other words, the majority of the business community in our poll is for much more autonomy and for options we argue are a lot closer to the Yes Campaign’s offer than the No Campaign’s status-quo.
Interestingly, however, 28% of the business community would keep things as they are and 12% would go backwards, actually dissolve the Scottish Parliament. We presume that combined 40% segment is minded to vote No in September versus 41% which is in favour of a Yes vote. The eventual winner of the business community vote, and perhaps the nation as a whole, will be the campaign that wins over the devo-max minded segment (in this case 17% of the sample).
Devo-max is not technically on the ballot paper but neither is separation. In fact, in our view the form of independence on offer to voters is much closer to devo-max than any of the other options that voters may be offered.
If the powers offered to the Scottish people prior to the referendum are substantially weaker than full financial autonomy as seems almost certain, then Business for Scotland and the Yes Campaign needs to make the case for why voting Yes is the right combination of progress and continuity for devo-max minded people.
The problem for the No Campaign is that some within their own ranks want to take powers away from Scotland and many more don’t support any progress at all let alone devo-max. 12% of the business community don’t want Scotland to have the powers we already have never mind new powers.
We do not believe the No Campaign will offer a collective manifesto for substantial more powers ahead of the independence referendum, and certainly not anything akin to devo-max. We do not believe they will outline how those powers are to be used or set in stone the process and reasonable timeframe for passing such an Act through Westminster. Indeed, we do not see how they can credibly guarantee anything given the transparent and significant resistance to more powers in their own political parties.
Whatever the case, most of the business community (which is of course 99.3% SMEs and mostly self-made entrepreneurs as opposed to institutional types) want substantial progress. The battle for undecided voters with a business interest will be shaped by whomever most convincingly articulates the balance between continuity and change, or interdependence and independence.
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*First Opinion Ltd is the research division of Pursuit Marketing Ltd