It did not work when the original announcement that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to share the pound and form a monetary union with the rest of the UK was made. And it looks as though the No side’s return to the issue in and since the leaders’ debate has again failed to impress voters – and may even have backfired.
The latest evidence that this appears to be the case comes in a YouGov poll for The Times, the first installment of which is published today, exactly a month before polling day. The poll puts Yes on 38%, up three points on the company’s previous poll a fortnight ago (straddling the leaders’ debate) and on its poll before that conducted towards the end of June. No are on 51%, down four and three points respectively on those two previous readings. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded (11% of the sample including 2% who say they will not vote), Yes are on 43% (and No on 57%), up four points on YouGov’s two previous polls and the highest Yes tally that YouGov have so far posted in the referendum campaign.
YouGov have, of course, been one of those pollsters whose estimate of the Yes vote has tended to be on the low side. Indeed, the 39% Yes tally it posted in its last two polls was on the low side even as compared with the figures that have been produced recently by the two other pollsters (TNS BMRB and Ipsos MORI) who have tended to put the Yes vote on the low side. So perhaps some of the swing to Yes in today’s poll may in part simply be the result of YouGov coming into line with the position already found in other polls. However, today’s four point swing follows on from two point swings in polls published yesterday from ICM and Panelbase. We cautioned that the swings in those two earlier polls might simply be the product of random fluctuation, but now that a third poll has uncovered a (bigger) move in the same direction, we cannot discount the possibility that there might have recently been a small swing to Yes.
Certainly it is now seems clear that the leaders’ debate was not the damaging episode for the Yes side that it had originally appeared to be. Four regular polls have now been conducted since that debate and on average these polls (including the one from Survation that recorded a four point drop in Yes support) have put the Yes vote (after Don’t Knows are excluded) on 45% – an increase of one point on the average figure when those same four polls were conducted previously. Note though that our regular poll of polls, based on the six most recently conducted polls, still stands this morning at Yes 43%, No 57%.
Meanwhile, today’s poll confirms the evidence in the polls from ICM and (even from) Survation, that people’s views on the currency issue remain what they were back in February, and that consequently the No side have made little or no progress in persuading voters that a monetary union is both undesirable and would not happen. According to YouGov 45% of all voters (including 41% of No voters) would want an independent Scotland to form a monetary union with the rest of the UK, slightly up on the 42% who were of that view shortly after the Chancellor’s original currency intervention in February. (A further installment of the Panelbase/Yes Scotland poll published today also reveals that 56% of voters feel keeping the pound would be in Scotland’s interests.) Meanwhile 44% (including no less than 89% of Yes voters) now believe that the Westminster parties are bluffing when they say that an independent Scotland would not be able to share the pound, slightly more than the 40% who believe they are not bluffing. Both figures are very similar to those obtained by YouGov on three previous occasions when it has posed the same question.
One of the reasons why the No side believes that the currency issue is a vote winner so far as it is concerned is that it helps cast doubt in voters’ minds that an independent Scotland would be a more prosperous Scotland. But there is little sign too in the latest polls that this is proving to be the case. Yesterday, ICM reported that the balance of opinion on the economic consequences of independence, while still negative, was little different from a month (or even two months) ago. Now today, YouGov actually report a five point increase to a record high of 32% in the proportion who think that Scotland would be economically better off under independence.
Mind you, as in the case of ICM, YouGov still finds that there are far more pessimists (46%) than optimists (32%) about the economic consequences of independence. There remains much work for the Yes side to do on this issue. But it seems that one thing it does not need to worry about unduly as it sets about this task is the No side continuing to bang on about the currency.
About the author
John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.