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Bringing fact and impartial analysis into the referendum debate

In a political campaign – and that is what the referendum debate is, despite having a constitutional outcome which transcends politics – we should always expect the parties to make claims which cannot be immediately verified.

download book hereIn an election battle we have little way of knowing whether manifesto pledges will be kept, or if they are implemented whether they will have the promised outcome. In the referendum campaign this uncertainty is magnified. We are trying to imagine a future which has never existed before. We can’t fall back on “what happened last time,” because last time was three centuries ago and the circumstances then were so different as to offer no guidance at all.

So how do voters choose between independence and remaining part of the union? For many the choice is already made. They decided early in the campaign, or even before it started, and they will not change their minds in the remaining five and a half weeks.

But that does not mean that the outcome is a foregone conclusion – far from it. The narrow gap between No and Yes is smaller than the percentage of those who express a preference, but say they are open to persuasion and the “don’t knows.” The latest opinion poll evidence suggests these two groups will decide the outcome.

For them, the David Hume Institute, in partnership with the Future of the UK and Scotland research programme, financed by the Economic and Social Research Council, and the independent charity, the Hunter Foundation, has produced an eBook – Scotland’s Decision: 16 questions to think about for the referendum on September 18.

The book, which can be downloaded here, has been written by leading researchers, who address some of the most important issues of the campaign: the economy, the likely transition arrangements and costs if Scotland votes Yes, what might happen if Scotland votes No, the international dimension, domestic policies such as immigration, welfare and pensions and business and competition issues.

They draw on known facts and, by using their expertise and academic training, try to reach reasonable conclusions about those things which cannot yet be known. The intention is not to tell anyone how to vote, but to give electors more information and the context to issues to help them decide for themselves. We hope you will find it useful.

Ray Perman

Director, David Hume Institute

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