Scottish independence: Is £500 the referendum deal breaker?

Pile of money Why £500? Did pollsters and researchers base it on hard facts, or guess work?

Could a seemingly random sum of money help voters make their decision in the Scottish independence referendum?

Since 2011, the authors of a survey on Scottish social attitudes have been asking the same key questions based around the figure of £500.

If under independence you were £500 better off would you say "yes" in the referendum and if you were £500 worse off would you say "no" in the referendum?

For ScotCen Social Research, which conducts the annual survey, the findings are clear.

In the 2013 report - involving the interviewing of 1,497 people between June and October - the suggestion was......

  • 52% would support independence, and 30% would oppose it if £500 a year better off
  • 15% would support independence, and 72% would oppose it if £500 a year worse off

In the 2011 report - when 1,197 people participated - the suggestion was....

  • 65% would support independence, and 24% would oppose it if £500 a year better off
  • 21% would support independence, and 66% would oppose it if £500 a year worse off

So, could £500 be the referendum deal breaker? And if so, why?

Prof John Curtice, research consultant with ScotCen Social Research, said he and his team were the first to use the figure. But was it based on hard facts or totally random?

Who has used the £500 figure?

He explained: "We first asked the question in 2011 as we sought to better understand the trade-offs that the public were making in forming their view of Scottish independence.

"It was designed to assess how much economic considerations would influence support for independence.

"The £500 figure was a best guess for an amount of money big enough to have impact on a person's material well-being, symbolic of an improvement in an individual's standard of living, but not so large as to completely override everything else."

Since Prof Curtice settled on using £500 for his research, other pollsters have followed suit.

ICM's September 2013 poll showed that if people could be convinced an independent Scotland would make you richer by the amount of £500, 56% would vote "yes" and 44% would vote "no".

The promise of a £500 deficit on the other hand produced a "yes" vote of 22% and a 78% "no" vote.

Panelbase has used the figure twice - in February 2012 and November 2013 - but with a different question entirely.

Personal finance

Instead of offering its sample the £500 figure as a guarantee, it asked participants: "In terms of your personal circumstances which of these statements most closely reflects your view?" It then gave them the following answers to choose from:

  • I believe I would be at least £500 better off per year in an independent Scotland (13% in February 2012, 15% in November 2013).
  • I believe an independent Scotland would make little difference to my financial circumstances (40% in 2012, 26% in 2013).
  • I believe I would be at least £500 worse off per year in an independent Scotland (20% in 2012, 34% in 2013).
  • Don't know (27% in 2012, 25% in 2013).

Panelbase Managing Director Ivor Knox said he used the ScotCen Social Research figure of £500 "for consistency" reasons.

Regardless of what sum of money you go for, Prof Curtice believes research consistently shows how important an individual's personal finances are when it comes to making a choice in the independence referendum debate.

He believed people seemed to be saying: "You know what, I might be able and willing to vote for independence,

"I might be willing to leave my Britishness aside if I think I am going to be better off, but equally, conversely, a lot of people who feel strongly Scottish say, look I'm not going to do it unless you can convince me I am going to be better off.

"So, that in the end is why this issue of economy kicks in. Voters need more than just their sense of identity to decide how they are going to vote."

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  1.  
    09:08: John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    There probably aren't that many people out there who are wholly undecided in the sense that they really are not clear at all whether they are going to vote 'Yes' or 'No'.

    Really, the battle is not so much about getting people who have no idea at all - there aren't too many of those - but rather those people who have got an inclination but they're still wavering. It's to persuade those people to go in one direction or the other.

     
  2.  
    Text 80295 09:00: Referendum - Your Views

    Irene, Brighton. What happens if it's a dead heat? Pistols at dawn with Salmond and Cameron? That I would pay good money to see!

    Paul, Dunblane: The basic tenet of democracy is that a nation gets the government it votes for. Scotland has not been a democracy for 300 years. A Yes vote changes that. A No vote and we cease to be even a country.

    Larissa, Fife: I feel we are guinea pigs in Mr Salmond's experiment. An experiment that has so many extraneous variables that it is not safe to run.

    John, Stirling: Surely what is now being offered should have been there BEFORE polling started? Almost 25% of electorate have already voted.

     
  3.  
    08:56: 'Scaremongering falls on deaf ears'

    Mr Salmond concluded: "I think no-one seriously thinks that this land is not capable of running its own finances.

    Alex Salmond

    "All of the scaremongering is going to fall on deaf ears. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

     
  4.  
    08:52: 'Mythical package'

    Mr Salmond describes the pledge signed by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties that there will be more powers for the Scottish Parliament as the "mythical package of nothing".

     
  5.  
    08:50: 'Sustainable borrowing'

    Asked whether an independent Scotland would have to pay more to borrow money, the first minister replies: "No, you have to have sustainable level of borrowing and debt. As far as the cost is concerned, we'll be borrowing at Sterling rates."

     
  6.  
    08:49: Economic criticisms

    Asked why many companies and financial experts are criticisng plans for a an independent Scotland, Mr Salmond replies: "Many economic experts take a different view," and mentions Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who recently criticised the "scaremongering".

    He claims the Scottish government is building "better schools and better hospitals" through capital funding, rather than having money "creamed off" by private companies in PFI arrangements.

     
  7.  
    08:39: Salmond on GMS

    First Minister Alex Salmond is live on Good Morning Scotland.

    Responding to Alistair Darling's claim that the SNP is cutting NHS funds and there is a £400m funding gap, Mr Salmond says this is "absolutely untrue".

    "Our plans show a real-terms increase in spending - the first time the health service budget has ever passed the £12bn mark," he adds.

     
  8.  
    08:28: View from the Borders

    Good Morning Scotland has been reporting from the Borders this morning.

    Bob Burgess, deputy editor of local newspaper the Southern Reporter, said the question of boundaries and currency had been among the key issues for people in the area.

    He told Gary Robertson: "We have had to expand our letters pages quite dramatically."

     
  9.  
    08:20: Morning Call Louise White Presenter, Morning Call

    Coming up, have you seen or heard anything specific which has helped you decide how you are going to vote in the referendum?

    From the economy to health, from business to currency, let's have your questions and your comments.

    Louise White

    Lines are open now - call 0500 929500 text 80295 or email morningcallscotland@bbc.co.uk

     
  10.  
    08:11: Tim Reid Political correspondent, BBC News

    Darling: "What you have is an undertaking. A promise. That if we say no to independence we will get the change most people want"

     
  11.  
    08:10: Tim Reid Political correspondent, BBC News

    Darling struggling to explain how pro union parties can "guarantee" powers other than "will be an awful lot quicker" than independence.

     
  12.  
    08:06: Salmond coming up...

    First Minister Alex Salmond will be speaking to Good Morning Scotland after 08:30.

    You can listen to the programme at the top of this page.

     
  13.  
    08:05: 'Energised and divided'

    Speaking about the nature of the campaign, Douglas Alexander said: "This campaign has both energised Scotland and it has divided Scotland. There's a heavy burden of responsibility on everyone involved in this campaign to conduct ourselves in a manner that means on Friday morning, whatever the result, we can bring Scotland together and we can move Scotland forward. I hope that is an approach that will be taken by everybody."

    yes/no
     
  14.  
    08:04: More Darling

    Mr Darling told BBC Scotland: "You can have a stronger, more secure Scottish Parliament.

    "Why on earth break up the entire thing? If we vote to leave, if it all goes wrong, we can't go back."

     
  15.  
    08:03: Guardian poll

    More than six out of 10 people in England and Wales believe the UK government should not enter into a currency union with an independent Scotland, according to a poll in the Guardian.

    Scottish notes

    The poll also finds that 56% of those who responded would be "saddened" if Scotland votes to be independent.

     
  16.  
    07:55: 'One-party state'

    Labour MP Douglas Alexander has dismissed Yes campaign claims that independence is the only way to get the government Scotland votes for.

    On BBC Breakfast he said: "I've got two governments that I didn't vote for and didn't support. I've got a Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh and I've got a Conservative-Liberal government in Westminster. So the only way you always get the government you vote for is in a one-party state and I don't think anybody is recommending that."

     
  17.  
    07:53: Darling on the NHS

    Alistair Darling, campaign leader of Better Together, has been speaking about the NHS this morning.

    He told Good Morning Scotland: "What we are saying is if we vote No, work will start on Friday morning on increased powers, particularly to raise additional funds.

    Alistair Darling

    "You can have a stronger more secure health service if we vote No.

    "The Scottish Parliament has the power to spend money, it will have the power to raise additional money, it can borrow more."

     
  18.  
    07:51: 'Massive opportunity'

    Ms Sturgeon added: "They [the pro-Union parties] are treating voters in Scotland with contempt."

    Asked if a "Yes" vote guarantees "better lives" for people in Scotland, she replied: "Independence is not a magic want, but it is a massive opportunity.

    "We can make life better, not overnight, but over time."

     
  19.  
    07:49: Sturgeon: 'No guarantees'

    Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been responding to the offer of new powers put forward by the pro-Union parties.

    Nicola Sturgeon

    Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Sturgeon said: "If there was a serious intention to deliver more powers, why hasn't that happened before now?

    "Tory MPs, including Christopher Chope, have already said they would block more powers. If we vote No, there are no guarantees at all."

     
  20.  
    07:39: 'Faster change'

    Asked if the move smacks of panic, Mr Alexander told BBC Breakfast: "I don't think there's any embarrassment about placing policies on the front page of papers with just days two go.

    "I think the 'Yes' campaign are struggling. They had an avalanche of facts engulfed in assertions last week when it was announced every major Scottish bank would move their registered office to London.

    "The economic risks suddenly became very real last week, and at the same time we are offering what I believe most of us here in Scotland want which is faster, safer and better change."

     
  21.  
    07:35: More Alexander

    "That pledge, that vow that we can have faster, safer, better change is actually a vision around which Scotland can unite," he adds.

     
  22.  
    07:34: 'Best of both worlds'

    Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has denied the powers pledge made by the pro-Union parties has come too late in the referendum debate.

    douglas alexander

    Mr Alexander told the BBC: "Here in Scotland, we have been talking about these powers for many months. What we are saying today is we can have the best of both worlds. We can have a stronger Scottish parliament but with the strength, stability and security of the United Kingdom."

     
  23.  
    Text 80295 07:34: Your views

    Frank, Helensburgh: The party leaders DO NOT have the powers to give away extra powers to the Scots

    J S Crieff: Vote no for stability not this daft idea of independence.

     
  24.  
    07:32: Yes response

    The Yes campaign claims the offer of further devolution signed up to by the leaders of all three main Westminster parties would give Scotland the power to raise only 30% of its taxes.

     
  25.  
    07:24: SNP chief executive Peter Murrell

    tweets: Promises Promises #Rattled

    Cameron and Miliband
     
  26.  
    07:19: Too late? Iain Watson Political correspondent, BBC News

    The problem all along, and this is what people would tell you privately in the "No" campaign, is that there is a very sharp argument between independence and all the risks it brings and staying with the UK.

    What they didn't do early enough, some of them would say, is put forward the alternative. They came up with a phrase which they used back in June when they said '"No" doesn't mean no change'. But they weren't clear what the change would actually be.

    Now they are emphasising it, now it's on the front page of a tabloid and some people think perhaps they've left this a little bit too late. And certainly it's quite difficult if you're using complicated arguments to get through to people who are first time voters, 16-year-olds, who have never voted in their life before.

     
  27.  
    Email: talkingpoint@bbc.co.uk 07:15: Get involved

    Everybody's talking about it...

    We want to hear your thoughts on the referendum itself, and the two campaigns. Tweet us using #bbcindyref, email us here or text 80295.

    If you are texting, don't forget to include your name and where you come from.

     
  28.  
    07:09: Media village Emma Ailes BBC Scotland

    With the referendum just two days away, the world's media is intensifying its gaze on Scotland.

    Media village

    At the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, preparations are under way to host hundreds of journalists and news crews from around the globe.

    A broadcast village with flood lights and scaffolding two storeys high has been erected in the grounds around Holyrood. From here, reporters will broadcast live.

     
  29.  
    06:57: 'Adds intensity'

    Calum Kerr, of Yes Scotland Borders, told Good Morning Scotland: "Bit by bit I have become massively involved. It's people that have never been interested in politics, they see a genuine opportunity for change.

    "It's a different challenge here, the proximity of the border adds an intensity.

    "A girl said we rely on England - the Morrisons is just across the border. You will still be able to go there."

     
  30.  
    06:49: On the campaign trail

    Scotland's desire for political and economic change has been heard and will be delivered, Ed Miliband will promise today.

    The Labour leader will insist a "vote for 'No' is a vote for change".

    Meanwhile, rival campaigners will argue independence would bring either a "golden opportunity" or "separation and risk".

    With just 48 hours until voters go to the polls, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary John Swinney will be talking to apprentices in Renfrew.

    Liberal Democrat MPs Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander will be joined by MSP Willie Rennie to highlight "the positive things that Scotland and the UK have achieved together".

    Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander will be campaigning in Edinburgh's financial district.

     
  31.  
    06:42: Border line

    Good Morning Scotland has been speaking to campaigners in the Scottish Borders on both sides of the independence debate.

    Michelle Ballantye, for Better Together, told BBC Scotland: "I think it's a bit of a nonsense we need to be independent to be fairer.

    "I think the Borders has a strong sense of being part of the UK. Our sense of connection is very strong."

     
  32.  
    06:25: Leaders pledge more powers

    The leaders of the three main Westminster parties have signed a pledge to devolve more powers to Scotland if there's a No vote.

    The pledge has been signed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg and appears on the front of the Daily Record newspaper.

    Daily Record

    It includes promises of "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has denied the move is a panic measure.

    He said: "I always said right from the start of this campaign, if Scotland voted 'No' to separation, the rest of the United Kingdom would say 'Yes' to further devolution.

    david cameron, ed miliband and nick clegg

    "If Scotland wants more devolution - and I think Scotland should have more devolution - you have to answer the prior question 'Do you want to stay in the United Kingdom?'

    "And of course that wasn't just my view; that was the view of the leaders of other United Kingdom parties who all thought it was important. Let's settle the question of separation and then look at devolution."

     
  33.  
    06:13: Good Morning Marianne Taylor BBC Scotland news

    Good morning and welcome to Referendum Live, your minute-by-minute guide to all today's news, comment and analysis from both sides of the campaign.

    With just two full days of campaigning left, and with the polls so close, the stakes couldn't be higher.

     

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