Scotland decides: Economic risks drove voters to reject independence, poll shows

Pro-Union 'No' supporters pose for a picture during a rally in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 16, 2014, ahead of the referendum on Scotland's independence. Scots were driven to reject independence in a historic referendum more out of fears ov
Pro-Union 'No' supporters pose for a picture during a rally in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 16, 2014, ahead of the referendum on Scotland's independence. Scots were driven to reject independence in a historic referendum more out of fears over the economic risks of going alone than a strong attachment to the United Kingdom, a survey analysis shows. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Scots were driven to reject independence in a historic referendum more out of fears over the economic risks of going alone than a strong attachment to the United Kingdom, a survey analysis shows.

The post-referendum survey by independent pollster Lord Michael Ashcroft also reveals that young people voted in droves to break up the centuries-old union - suggesting that a future referendum might go the other way.

The "No" campaign focused on the economic dangers of independence, in particular warning of uncertainty over the currency after the British government said the separatists would not be able to keep the pound.

Ashcroft's survey of 2,047 people who cast ballots in Thursday's referendum, weighted to reflect the 55 per cent who voted against independence, reveals that the message hit home.

When "No" voters were presented with three options explaining their decision, some 47 per cent said the risks were too great when it came to matters such as the currency, EU membership, the economy, jobs and prices.

Around 27 per cent said they were driven by a strong attachment to the United Kingdom, its shared history, culture and traditions.

And around 25 per cent said it was the promise of new powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament that would result in "the best of both worlds".

By contrast, "by far the biggest single driver for 'Yes' voters was disaffection with Westminster politics", said Ashcroft, a former Conservative party donor, in an online commentary.

Seven in 10 "Yes" voters said they were most concerned that decisions about Scotland be taken in Scotland, while 20 per cent said they were driven by the feeling that the future would be brighter as an independent country.

One in 10 said their main reason for backing independence was to ensure they would no longer be ruled by Conservative governments.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's party is currently the biggest in Westminster but has just one Scottish MP.

Warnings that independence was the only way to save the state-run National Health Service (NHS) from savage spending cuts also made their mark, with 54 per cent of "Yes" voters saying it was an important factor.

After a slow burning campaign that reached a frenzy in the last fortnight when opinion polls suggested the "Yes" camp might deliver a shock win, two-thirds of those who made up their minds in the last few days voted "Yes".

Despite the clear result, the survey indicates that the issue of independence has not been decided for good.

Some 71 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds, who were allowed to vote for the first time in a British election, voted "Yes", while 73 per cent of people over 65 voted "No".

And although Cameron said the issue of independence had now been settled for a generation, many voters believe the referendum may be re-run sooner.

Some 31 per cent said the issue was settled for five years, 17 per cent for a decade, 24 per cent for a generation - while 19 per cent said independence would never be revisited.

The respondents were interviewed by telephone and online.