Powers 'Vow' Swayed 3% Of No Voters

27 March 2015, 06:00

Only a very small proportion of Scottish independence referendum voters were swayed by the unionist "vow'' of more powers despite a widespread nationalist belief that it was a decisive factor in the No vote, new research has found.

Just 3.4% of No voters said the offer of more powers was the main motivation for their decision, but 41.3% of Yes voters believe people voted No because "Westminster leaders misled Scots over more powers'', research by the Centre on Constitutional Change suggests.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has said "the vow'' by the three unionist Westminster leaders in a Scottish tabloid was a decisive factor in the referendum, insisting it "was designed for the 10% of people who were moving to Yes - the swing voters - who could be persuaded that they could still get progress for Scotland without voting Yes''.

The biggest deciding factors for most No voters was "feeling British/believe in Union'' (29.5%), "too many unanswered questions'' (27.8%) and "Independence would make Scotland worse off'' (26.3%).

Just 5.3% said they "wanted to vote Yes but it seemed too risky'' (5.3%) while a similar number voted No because they "don't trust Salmond'' (5.2%).

While most Yes voters blamed "the vow'' for the No vote, other reasons given were "press bias towards No'' (17%), the "electorate lost its nerve'' (11.8%), "warnings from banks/business about Yes'' (11.2%), Better Together's "negative campaign'' (7.9%) or Yes Scotland's "poor campaign'' (0.9%).

Report co-author Ailsa Henderson, of Edinburgh University's department of politics and international relations, said: "There is clearly a divergence between the perception among Yes voters that the offer of more powers was an important aspect of the campaign and reality of how No voters reached their decision.

"The issue of 'more powers' is not cited as the main reason for voting No. However, Yes voters are convinced it caused a loss of nerve leading to support for the Union.''

Dr Rob Johns, reader in politics at the University of Essex, said: "The trajectory of opinion during the campaign suggests that the drift back to No predated the famous 'Vow' on the Daily Record's front cover.

"It is not unusual for a misleading narrative to develop about what swung an election or referendum.

"According to our data, anyone who thinks ''it was the Vow wot won it`` is exaggerating, to say the least.

"However, once these narratives develop, they can be hard to shift. We may well see the effect of this one when voters turn out for the general election in May.''

The findings are based on YouGov surveys of 4,849 people between August 22 and September 17, and 3,719 people between September 22 and 26.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "All three pro-UK parties came up with plans for a more powerful Scottish Parliament before the referendum and, whoever is in power after the general election, those powers will be delivered to make Holyrood a more responsible and accountable parliament.

"Contrary to Alex Salmond's bluster, we have all been good to our word on delivering these powers.

"But this research also confirms that people voted No for bigger reasons - because they believe in the UK and didn't believe in Mr Salmond's flaky assertions.''