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by Liam Kirkaldy
26 March 2015
The Vow was not the decisive factor in the referendum

The Vow was not the decisive factor in the referendum

The Vow had very little effect on decision making among No voters in the independence referendum, according to new research.

The study, from the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Essex, found that just 3.4 per cent of No voters put their decision down to the offer of more powers.

In comparison, 29.5 per cent said that ‘feeling British/believe in Union’ was their main motivation, 27.8 per cent said there were ‘too many unanswered questions’, 26.3 per cent said ‘independence would make Scotland worse off’, and with around 5 per cent saying they ‘wanted to vote Yes but it seemed too risky’ or that they didn’t trust Alex Salmond.

However when Yes voters were asked what motivated No voters, 41.3 per cent replied ‘Westminster leaders misled Scots over more powers’, 17 per cent said ‘the press/BBC bias towards No’, and around 11 per cent said the ‘electorate lost its nerve’.

Dr Rob Johns, one of the authors of the report, 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.  And we may well see the effect of this one when voters turn out for the general election in May.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “While it is interesting to carry out these academic exercises, at the end of the day a substantial majority of the electorate voted to stay part of the UK. The SNP Government drew up the rules on who should participate but seem reluctant to accept the result of what was supposed to a ‘once in a generation’ vote.

“The referendum was last year’s decision. What unites Scots now is the desire to get rid of this Tory Government and replace them with a Labour government committed to policies that will see the better off paying a bit more to support the less well off through the 50p tax rate on higher earnings, the mansion tax and the bankers’ bonus tax.”

Meanwhile an SNP spokesperson responded: “While we were disappointed with the result of the referendum, this study shows that a clear legacy has been greater political involvement, particularly amongst young people, and that is something to be proud of.

“Polling conducted immediately after the referendum showed that a quarter of No voters regarded the promise of extra powers as important in informing their decision - and nearly 10 per cent of No voters only made up their mind in the last week. Undoubtedly, the Westminster parties published the Vow because all of their information indicated that it would have a big impact on the result."

See comment - If the Vow didn't swing the referendum, then what's the justification for further devolution?

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