One of the favourite refrains of the Scottish right is that Scotland’s centre of political gravity does not, as socialists and nationalists like to insist, sit to the left of the rest of the United Kingdom’s. Citing a wealth of statistical research, often conducted by either Bill Miller of Glasgow University or Strathclyde’s ubiquitous politics professor John Curtice, conservatives argue that, on questions of tax and spend, the attitudes of Scots correspond more or less exactly to those of voters in England and Wales. Leaving aside the reality of Scottish political culture, which is dominated by two (at least nominally) social democratic parties, this raises questions about Scotland’s appetite for progressive reform: what hope is there for a more equal Scotland if the Scottish electorate shares the hostility of the English electorate towards greater redistribution?
But new research by Ipsos MORI Scotland suggests a substantial discrepancy exists between Scottish and English/Welsh views on tax and public service delivery, including greater Scottish support for higher taxes in exchange for improved services. Writing on his organisation’s website, Mark Diffley, director of Ipsos-MORI Scotland, explains his findings:
When we compare Scotland with the rest of the UK, we can see different attitudes to how public services should be delivered and funded. For example while the appetite for increasing taxes to pay for additional spending on health, education and social benefits has declined in both Scotland and England during the 2000s, it remains an option more favoured in Scotland, with 40% supporting such a policy move, compared to 30% of the public in England.
When it comes the delivery of public services, the strength of public opinion in Scotland opposed to radical change becomes clearer. Scots have clearly different views from their neighbours about how public services should be delivered…
When asked which sector would be best at providing public services that best understand what service users need, over half of Scots (54%) believe public authorities do the best job while just 11% believe that the private sector would do a better job, compared to figures of 30% for public authorities and 16% in favour of the private sector among adults in England and Wales. Similarly, 58% of Scots believe that public bodies would provide the most professional and reliable public services, compared to 19% who would favour the private sector in that regard. This contrasts with figures of 30% for public bodies and 29% for the private sector among adults in England and Wales.
As Diffley notes, this research is politically significant. Attempts by parties to introduce more private finance into Scottish public services will face strong popular resistance. But beyond that, it reinforces nationalist and left-wing claims about the entrenched social democratic sympathies of the Scottish public and consolidates the perception of a growing ideological divide between Scotland and Westminster.
Read Diffley’s full piece here: http://www.scottishpolicynow.co.uk/article/public-services-reform-and-public-opinion.
Gregor Gall’s book has launches next week (more here)
Wednesday 8 May, 6.00 to 7.30pm, Stand Comedy Club, 5 York Place. With Gregor Gall (editor), Neil Findlay (contributor) and Colin Fox (contributor)
Thursday 9 May, 6.00 to 7.30pm, Stand Comedy Club, 333 Woodlands Road. With Gregor Gall (editor), Maggie Chetty (contributor) and Dave Watson (contributor)
Details to be confirmed