Poll shows ‘widespread misunderstanding’ of economic facts, think tank says

Neil Pooran, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

An opinion poll has found “widespread misunderstanding” of economic facts among Scottish voters and confusion over the SNP’s plans for independence, a pro-Union think tank says.

A poll conducted by Survation for the think tank These Islands found 57% of those who supported independence believed the Scottish Government’s annual GERS figures are “made up by Westminster to hide Scotland’s true wealth”.

The annual figures are used to calculate Scotland’s fiscal deficit and are published by the Scottish Government.

Survation polled 1,047 Scots between April 21 and 23.

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When undecided voters were removed, 51% said they would vote No in an independence referendum were it held tomorrow, while 49% would vote Yes.

Overall, a net figure of 30% said they agreed that the GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures were “made up by Westminster to hide Scotland’s true wealth” while 30% disagreed.

Among potential Yes voters, agreement was at 57%.

Some 54% of independence supporters agreed with the statement “Scottish tax revenues are understated because of Scottish exports leaving via English ports”.

Meanwhile, 66% of independence supporters agreed with the statement “Scottish tax revenues are understated because taxes generated by the whisky industry are not properly allocated to Scotland”.

The Scottish Government says all exports, including whisky, which leave via ports elsewhere in the UK still count as Scottish exports in official figures.

These Islands said that overall there was “widespread misunderstanding about Scotland’s balance of tax and spending”.

On the SNP’s currency plans, 35% of the poll’s respondents said they did not know what the SNP’s policy for currency in an independent Scotland is.

Some 25% said they believed it was to “keep the pound indefinitely” and 17% said it was to “keep the pound until a new Scottish currency is adopted”.

In 2018, the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission set out plans to keep the pound during a transition period, with a separate Scottish currency a possibility after six economic tests are met.

Kevin Hague, chairman of the think tank, said: “This survey reveals for the first time the true scale of what amounts to a fact-denial epidemic in Scotland.

“We have been tracking the spread of economic disinformation in the Scottish independence debate for some time now, but we are still shocked by these findings.

“A desire to see a well-informed electorate should not be a partisan issue; this survey should worry anybody who believes that sound democratic processes require a well-informed electorate.

“The debate about Scotland’s future in the UK is obviously about a lot more than economics, but it is clear from this survey that many supporters of independence deny (or have been persuaded to deny) simple economic facts – that cannot be healthy for democracy.”

Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The reality is that Scotland is a wealthy country and, as the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) said, there is nothing to say that Scotland cannot afford to be independent.

“The election on Thursday will present the people of Scotland with a choice, whether to put their future into the hands of Boris Johnson’s sleaze-ridden Tory Government – who dragged us out of the EU against our will and are jeopardising our economy – or put their future into their own hands by re-electing Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister with both votes SNP.

“Only giving both votes to the SNP will guarantee the strong leadership and bold policies needed to move the country from pandemic to recovery, and re-elect Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.”