What Scots really think about devolution?

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 18th March 2013

Scots currently aren’t keen on independence, but most of us would like all major powers – including welfare and tax – exercised in Edinburgh, not Westminster.

Today we launch a joint report with Scotcen to show what voters really think about their democratic future.

Since 2007 support for giving Holyrood primary responsibility for welfare benefits has consistently been somewhere between 60% and 64%. The equivalent figure for tax levels has been between 56% and 59%.

This, of course, has implications for the Independence debate – and for Westminster and the UK.

As the referendum debate begins to ramp itself up its in danger of presenting the Scottish public with argument for full independence (Yes) or arguments against it (No) – and thus crowd out debate about what sort of constitutional settlement most Scots want.

Some might say that this is fair enough.

After all that’s the question to be answered. It is of course a referendum hammered out by political elites in London and Edinburgh. But if the objective is to ensure the better governance of Scotland (and perhaps across the UK) then to ignore other options for devolving power for 2 years is potentially ignoring what the public actually want from their democracy.

If politicians finally do respond to public opinion on more powers then the implications of a No Vote for the UK are almost as great as for a Yes vote.

It now looks like the Chancellor will embrace Lord Heseltine’s recommendation to put more money into the English regions in Wednesday’s budget kicking of a debate about the concentration of wealth and power in London and its effect on the wider country.

The Scots desire for more powers – irrespective of the Independence vote – will not remain separate from the discussion about the costs and benefits of most power and wealth being concentrated in a small part of the UK.

More Devolution
An Alternative Road? by Rachel Ormston and John Curtice are available to download here 

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