Research briefings

Immigration, Scotland and the constitutional change debate: Geography, difference and the question of scale
Helen Packwood and Allan Findlay, University of St Andrews, ESRC Centre for Population Change
This research uses the 2011 UK Census to explore the diverse immigration picture in the UK. In contrast to a simplistic comparison between England and Scotland, the briefing paper suggests that a more pertinent approach is to consider how Scotland compares with English regions. The authors provide evidence which argues that Scotland, as well as other parts of the UK, would benefit from a more nuanced approach to immigration policy.

Constitutional change and inequality in Scotland
David Comerford and David Eiser, University of Stirling
What scope does a sub-national economy have to affect the level of inequality? Does a policy menu consistent with the theories of fiscal federalism provide for an ability to affect inequality measures, or does this ability require the powers of a nation state? This paper discusses these questions in the context of the debate around the Scottish independence referendum, in which inequality has played a prominent role, and asks whether independence, further devolution, or simply different policies under the current constitutional framework are capable of helping Scotland transition to a less unequal income distribution.

Government spending on benefits and state pensions in Scotland: current patterns and future issues
David Phillips, Institute for Fiscal Studies
There has been a growing debate about how the benefits system - the system of state benefits, pensions and tax credits - may be affected if Scotland becomes independent. The Scottish government has said it plans to reverse at least some of the cuts to the benefits system if Scotland were to become independent, as well as consult upon the principles and policies an independent Scotland should follow. This briefing note describes the patterns of benefit expenditure in Scotland and set out a number of issues for the future.

Patterns and perceptions of migration, is Scotland distinct from the rest of the UK?
David McCollum and Allan Findlay, University of St Andrews; David Bell, University of Stirling; Jakub Bijak, University of Southampton
The issue of migration has not featured strongly in the referendum debate. However there are grounds for believing that Scotland is 'different' from the rest of the UK in terms of migration patterns and in relation to public attitudes towards immigration. This briefing introduces some of the issues that are being addressed by an ESRC Centre for Population Change study investigating how migration in Scotland is different from the rest of the UK and how Scottish independence from the UK might affect migration.

The option not on the table: attitudes to more devolution
Rachel Ormston and John Curtice, National Centre for Social Research
The Scottish referendum in 2014 will ask people one question – whether they think Scotland should be an independent country. Yet many surveys and polls suggest that another option – significantly extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament – might be better able than independence to attract support from a majority of Scots. This briefing paper examines public attitudes to further devolution.

Who supports and opposes independence - and why?
Professor John Curtice, National Centre for Social Research
How deep are the differences and divisions within the Scottish public on independence? What appears to motivate people to back one side or the other? Is it primarily because they wish to express their sense of national identity, or are they primarily concerned about whether independence would strengthen or weaken Scotland’s economy? We use the Scottish Social Attitudes survey to address these questions – and indicate how far its results are reflected in recent opinion polls on referendum voting intention.

Scotland's currency options: a monetary union?
Dr Angus Armstrong, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
Not only is a currency an obvious national emblem, but it governs the basis of monetary policy, financial policy and in some circumstances the capacity for fiscal policy. Ministers have stated that if Scotland becomes independent, the Government will seek to form a monetary union with the rest of the UK. Politicians on both sides of the debate have outlined conditions which they believe are necessary for a lasting monetary union. Yet it is private investors' incentives based on economics rather than the wishes of politicians which eventually prevail.

Quorum optimum? Of broth and cooks, and saucers and humps, and Scotland's economic future
Professor Peter Sinclair, University of Birmingham
Should the Scots remain partners in the British state? Or form one of their own? What differences would separation make?
The State is a set of individuals. How big should it be to be quorate? What are the economic benefits and costs of size? These huge and challenging questions are now urgent. This presentation will sketch out some key ideas that spring from theory, and then turn to a few facts.

In Bed with an Elephant? Exploring Scottish-UK relations after independence
Dr Nicola McEwen, University of Edinburgh
The Scottish government’s vision of independence has emphasised the continued associations that Scotland and the rest of the UK would still share. Independence would not cut Scotland off from its neighbours, but would mark a new relationship with the rest of the UK. A partnership of equals, in which we continued to share a social union, a currency union, a labour market, an energy market, a common travel area, and a variety of other possible institutions and services. But how feasible is this form of 'embedded independence'? And would it really be a partnership of equals?