Does the latest polling vindicate Neil Kinnock’s warning that devolution would result in an ‘English backlash’?
Whatever the outcome of next month’s independence referendum people in England want a hard line to be taken with the Scots, the latest major survey of English public opinion suggests.
The latest Future of England Survey found a hardening of attitudes regardless of the outcome in September’s referendum. The new research suggests that English voters oppose sharing the pound with an independent Scotland, want public spending there reduced in the event of a no vote and are broadly pessimistic about future relations between the two countries.
The findings of the Survey contradict some of the key proposals put forward by the pro-union parties to offer Scotland further powers if independence is rejected; the findings are also at odds with those of the Scottish Government regarding what should follow from a Yes vote.
By an overwhelming margin of more than five to one, English voters agree that, after a no vote, ‘Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only in England’. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have explicitly ruled out implementing the proposal for ‘English votes for English laws’ set out by the UK government’s McKay commission last year. “This is research that helps the nationalists. It allows them to claim that the English just aren’t that into us and if this notion is modestly contradicted by the fact the English would like the Union to be maintained it is given at least some support by the poll’s other findings” Alex Massie wrote in The Spectator.
Over half the respondents also believe that public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the UK average following a no vote, putting them at odds with the commitment of the three main pro-union parties to continue funding in Scotland via the Barnett formula. “A clear inference from the research is that, whatever the result, relations between the English and the Scots could become increasingly hostile in the years to come” Martin Kettle write in the Guardian; “Politicians of most stripes on both sides of the border have an interest in pretending this is not so. But the message of the research is hard to deny”.
The authoritative survey of English opinion on constitutional issues was undertaken by researchers at Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities. The Survey consulted a representative sample of 3695 adults in England; it was undertaken in late April 2014 by the polling agency YouGov.
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