English voters back Scots spending cuts in event of referendum no vote

20 Aug 14

Voters in England want public spending in Scotland to be cut to the level of the UK average if there is a no vote in next month’s independence referendum, a poll has found.

A survey of 3,695 adults undertaken by YouGov found that over half (56%) said that spending should be reduced if Scotland remains a member of the UK. Only 12% disagreed, according to the poll undertaken for Cardiff University and the ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change, based at the University of Edinburgh.

The researchers highlighted that UK unionist parties campaigning for a no vote had pledged to continue funding the Scottish Parliament under the Barnett Formula if there is a no vote on September 18.

The formula increases the money available to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by a set proportion when overall public spending in England increases. This is controversial because the ratio that determines the increase, which has not been revised since the creation of the formula, was based on population rather than need.

Continuing this may be ‘inconsistent with public opinion in England’, the Future of England Survey 2014 warned. According to the analysis, identifiable public spending per capita in Scotland was £10,327 in 2012/13, compared to the UK average of £8,940. Reducing levels of public spending to this level implies cuts of more than 10% in Scotland.

In addition, English voters agreed, by a margin of more than five to one, that following a no vote Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only in England.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University said pro-union UK parties had pledged that Scotland could maintain its current position in terms of per capita public spending without any change in the status of Scottish MPs at Westminster.

‘But English voters clearly do not support this,’ he stated. ‘There is strong English support for reducing levels of public spending in Scotland to the UK average – a development that would lead to savage cuts in public services north of the border.

‘The question for Scottish voters is whether they can rely on pledges about the consequences of a no vote, when such pledges do not seem to be supported in the largest and most politically important part of the union?’

The studyalso found that English voters are opposed to Scottish independence by a 3 to 1 margin.

However, in the event of a yes vote, a majority ­(53%) disagreed that an independent Scotland should be allowed to continue to use the pound.

Only a quarter (26%) of those polled said the rest of the UK should support Scotland in applying to join international organisations like the European Union, with 36% disagreeing

Professor Charlie Jeffery of the University of Edinburgh said it was ‘striking how tough people in England are on Scotland whatever the referendum outcome’.

He added: ‘There appears to be little appetite for the Scottish Government’s vision of independence amid continuing partnership with the rest of the UK on the pound, Europe and NATO. If anything the message appears to be: “vote yes by all means, but if you do, you’re on your own”.

‘But if Scots vote no, there’s something similar at play. Here the message is: “by all means have more devolution, but you can’t then have the role at Westminster you do now, and don’t expect any funding to flow northwards from England”.’

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