There is a new Panelbase Scottish poll for NewsNet Scotland out today, with topline figures of YES 40%, NO 45%, don’t know 15%. Leaving aside that one poll with leading questions, the five point lead for No is the smallest we’ve seen since way back in February 2012. As ever don’t get too excited about any single poll, it’s the trend that counts, but there does appear to be a slight trend towards YES. John Curtice has his say upon it here.

Polls so far are here. Different Scottish polls from different companies tend to produce slightly different figures, especially in terms of don’t know. For trends it’s probably best to repercentage to exclude don’t knows, and one should certainly only compare polls from the same company:

Taking them one at a time, ICM had YES on 40% last September, then 46% in January, then 43% in February – YES appear up on September, but recent trends are unclear.

Ipsos MORI we had YES on 34% last September, 37% in December, 36% in February. Again YES appear up on September, but the recent trends are unclear

Survation we had YES on 38% in January, and then on 45% in February and March… but there was a significant methodology change between January and February, so don’t read too much into that shift.

TNS-BMRB we have what looks like a trend. YES was on 36% in October, 38% in November, 40% in December and January, 41% in February.

YouGov appears to show a similar steady but slow trend – 38% in September, 39% in December and January, 40% in February.

Panelbase have consistently shown better scores for YES than other companies, but until today have not really shown a clear trend: 44% in September, 45% in October and November, 43% and 44% in February. Repercentaged to exclude don’t knows today’s YES figure would be 47%… so higher, but not something that couldn’t be normal margin of error.

Putting it all together whatever trend is present is only small, so in individual poll series it is difficult to distinguish it from normal sample variation. Looking across the board though, the direction of travel in recent months does appear to slightly be towards YES.

185 Responses to “Panelbase/NewsNetScotland – YES 40%, NO 45%”

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  1. @Colin – genuinely surprised at that 66% support figure. I really thought the figure would have been far higher. Help for savers and more flexible pensions is like motherhood and apple pie, with the negatives only really apparent to people like the IFS who actually understand the macro economic issues.

    @Coupar2802 – the annuities are taxed when the money is paid out, so annuities aren’t tax free.

    I think this is difficult for lab to counter, as the issues are complex. I actually think they are doing OK. Frankly, I don’t see future pension arrangements as being a massive vote mover for most people, so I don’t think Labour should get involved in highly complex debates about something that I suspect won’t be central at the GE.

    @TOH – “The budget adds to the the economic competence argument and the lack of response from Labour adds to it as well.”

    Not if you read the IFS or the Telegraph. Quite the reverse. Those who understand these things appreciate that he has increased costs to the exchequer, and paid for permanent giveaways with temporary savings. This is why we are no longer hearing half as much about deficit reduction as we used to.

    I know @AW doesn’t like us discussing such things, but the reaction to the budget macro economics from many commentators left and right, certainly couldn’t be described as bolstering the competence arguement.

  2. @Alec

    But when you move money from a pension to an annuity it is tax free so interest is on the tax free sum, whereas if you move to another vehicle ie high interest savings then you pay tax when you move the money so the interest is on the already taxed sum.

    This means that folk will have to keep their cash in their pension pot until they use it for income – so it is not freedom.

  3. Alec/Raf,

    My sister an NUT activists sent me the same piece.

    C&P my reply – note Raf and I same thought re £21k thing, well kind of.


    Trouble is we don’t really know until a few years down the line.

    I know the apologists argue that the marketisation of education will lead to fewer crap degrees and therefore higher salaries hence lower write-off rates.

    Unfortunately it won’t be until 2025 perhaps when a proper assessment can be made and it will be too late by then.

    Also expect a kind of fiscal drag as the level at which payments start increases in line with inflation but average salaries increase in real term.

    This is basically unfair (like 40% rate capturing more and more) but it will lower the write-off rate.

  4. @Colin – “Average UK DC pot at retirement is apparently £20k. That is what this policy change is all about.”

    I think you are probably correct, but unfortunately they seem to have identified the issue but misunderstood the problem.

    The average pension pot is tiny, when compared to what people actually need for a modestly decent pension, so the target really should have been ensuring people can actually save up enough. Changing the regulations on annuities is the classic politically inspired rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic – it won’t address any of the key issues.

    I disagree with @Robert Newark that this is another ‘Right to Buy’ moment. It’s no such thing. That policy transferred large capital assets from society to individuals at knock down prices. This annuities policy basically means you can p!ss away your tiny pension pot in one go, instead of over the rest of your live. It adds extremely little extra value to most people’s lives.

    The kind of thing that might have been closer to a R2B moment would have been something like the scrapping of the 40% tax relief on pensions and transferring the £15B or so saved into better basic pensions, or direct into lower paid workers pension pots by way of a subsidy for lower paid workers.

    This kind of measure would have been controversial, but would have been much more effective at addressing the identified issue.

  5. @Coupar2802 – yes, I understand your point. It’s valid.

  6. There are some other reasons why this might not rank as a new Right to Buy moment, as some suggest.

    1) It doesn’t alter the situation for existing pensioners. Quite significant, I would say. It will actually affect very few voters in the short term, and longer term, I doubt people will heap credit on the government for doing something that by then, will just be part of the landscape.

    2) Annuities will become poorer.
    This is the view of the IFS, and could well be a serious implication. If future pensioners do indeed find it harder to get decent annuities, then I can’t see this policy being judged a success.

    3) Rob Peston believes it could well see businesses become even more reliant on banks for finance, as annuity bonds are a major funding source for corporate investment.

  7. Alec
    Better basic pensions are on the way anyway in 2015 or 2016. Unfortunately I will just miss out by maybe only a few months and will have to be content with £110pw rather than the £140/150 proposed. But as ever, the dividing line has to be somewhere.
    As a libertarian Tory I fully support this initiative. The smaller the state interference in my life the better, as far as I’m concerned.

  8. @Couper

    I agree about the ISA changes being for the core vote/rich. I think that’s rather proven by the figure (quoted on here) that the average pension pot is £20K.
    By the same token I think the pension change is politically very clever, being seen as ‘giving you control of your money’ rather than ‘nanny state knows best’ (the dog-whistle Littlejohn article that TOH praises refers).
    If you have a £20K pension pot, debts, desire for a new car/kitchen/world cruise to mark your retirement, doubts about how long you’ll survive then, damnit, compared to a few hundred £ income it’ll be very tempting to take it and blow it.
    The £500K pension pot brigade are different – largely conservative core tending to Ukip and ideologically aligned with Littlejohn.
    Also a wizard wheeze to bring forward tax receipts now at the expense of the future – I saw £1.3Bn pa mentioned. What does Willetts think of that?
    I wonder what it does for UK plc’s credit rating: lot’s of annuity money is in govt bonds so there’s likely to be less of that in future; to the extent that money’s blown on short term consumption, what effect does that have on benefits longer term (of course, there’s the theory that a triple-locked state pension will suffice, but what about social care type costs currently partly paid by recipients)

  9. @Guymonde

    It would only be your ‘own’ money if you did not get tax relief on contributions. 40% of the money is tax you would have paid if you had chosen anything other than a pension – so is money that should have gone to the state. Most commentators seem to be forgetting the state subsidised portion.

    I think it is incredible that 25% is tax free. I think a lot of the commentators are possible approaching retirement so care but for anyone under 50 this will have no effect. I do get the anti-nanny state idea.

    I personally will benefit from this change but it is a stupid change... [snip]

    [AGAIN, this is NOT a forum for debating if government or opposition policies are any good or not – AW]

  10. ALEC


    I pretty much disagree with the thoughts in that post

  11. ‘For the financial year to date 2013/14, public sector net borrowing ……. was £99.3 billion. This was £4.4 billion lower than the same period in 2012/13, when it was £103.8 billion. ‘


    This is being written up as being n course for a full year public sector net borrowing of108bn, but i am not so sure as March is a high spending month as departments and local authorities rush to spend at the end of the financial year. Last March PSNBR was -15.1bn. If it is similiar, the amount is going to be well over, maybe 112 to 114bn,which is very similiar to last year of 115bn.

    I am not sure if people are aware but there is an accounting coming this year, that will raise the 2012/2013 figure by 39bn so that 115bn becomes 154bn. That is back to 2010 levels of debt.

  12. JIM JAM

    @”JIM JAM

    @”My initial reaction is that the Isa changes are positive whilst I am unsure about the pension ones (neither negative or positive – I just don’t have a view yet, may never!).
    So I would be in the 66% I think.”

    In the YouGov Poll, Lab voters show the highest DKs.

  13. “The smaller the state interference in my life the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

    But the pension tax relief throughout your life (state interference) is OK?

  14. Re average pension pot.

    Is that not the pot average not each retiring person?

    I have 2 pots plus a frozen CARE pension (index linked) and will have a 4th when I start a new job soon?

  15. I think this pension change will prove to be a pain in the *ss to the government. Already many problems have been highlighted and somehow these will have to be dealt with. I can see parliament working overtime to pass all of the legislation that will be needed.

    Steve Webb, the pensions ‘expert’ is going to be very busy man. I agree that people should have the choice and not to have to go with an annuity, but this change should have been subject to a consultation period. Perhaps the financial services sector could have come forward with different products to offer more choice.

  16. FV

    @”I am not sure if people are aware but there is an accounting coming this year, that will raise the 2012/2013 figure by 39bn so that 115bn becomes 154bn. That is back to 2010 levels of debt.”

    Is there ?
    What is it ?

    2012/13 Deficit , excluding RM Pension tfr & APF Coupon refund was £115.2 bn

    ONS always gives figures on a comparable basis to that.

    this FY -to Feb-the deficit on the same basis is £99.3 bn-down £4.5 bn on PY

    March Deficit last FY was therefore £11.4bn.. To meet the OBR forecast for this FY , of £107.8 bn therefore, March deficit needs to be no higher than £8.5bn

  17. JIM JAM

    @”Re average pension pot.”

    I suspect you are correct. And it is certainly a feature of this wretched trend away from DB to DC schemes, that people get left with multiple small pots after a lifetimes job changes.

  18. @ Alec
    The kind of thing that might have been closer to a R2B moment would have been something like the scrapping of the 40% tax relief on pensions and transferring the £15B” etc

    This was the [totally forgotten] “economics” central element of the Lib-Dems’ manifesto in 2010, from which their various schemes were to be financed, instantly dropped after the election; and now wholly rejected by Alexander etc.

    Such a policy if adopted by Lab would create the clearest blue water between them and the Tories. However, there are now several millions in the 40% tax bracket, and even those only marginally so placed must by definition have all their pension contributions relieved at that level. Polling-wise the policy would therefore alienate far more people than in 2010. Nevertheless the current position in which the vast bulk of the benefit goes to those most capable of saving for pensions does seem weird. I would say unfair if I did eschew such loaded terms.

  19. @Robert Newark – “Better basic pensions are on the way anyway in 2015 or 2016. ”

    Just to be clear, this is the proposed basic pension. It will make the pension income guarantee redundant, which while it does mean no more means testing, will also mean that the poorest pensioners see no benefit.

    It also replaces S2P. In the long run, this means a cut in pensions for someone with a long work record on minimum wages of around 50%. [Snip – Again, this is NOT a place to discuss or debate whether government or opposition policies are any good or not. If people cannot police themselves on this I’ll put them on pre-moderation – AW]

  20. @Robbiealive – “..and even those only marginally so placed must by definition have all their pension contributions relieved at that level”

    I used to think that, but I was mistaken. You can’t get more 40% tax relief than you’ve actually paid in 40% tax, so what you’ve said doesn’t necessarily follow.

  21. What is happening to debt interest as a proportion of GDP.

    For me with my limited expertise in this area this goes to the heart of the countries ability to service debt.

    If below trend growth (whatever that is now) then all fine and dandy in my simple understanding.

    (accepting off ‘balance sheet’ debt like PFI can skew the figures)

  22. An average pension pot of £20,000 suggests an awful lot of very small pots.

    I can’t see this policy, even if people think it’s a good idea, causing many people to switch their votes.

  23. @Colin

    Is there ?
    What is it ?

    Here is a link to an article

    h ttp://

    ;Taken together with other changes demanded by the new European rules, the ONS said the overall impact of implementing ESA10 could be an increase in public borrowing of £37bn for 2012-13.’

    I had read this in other places, ,you are an accountant see what you think. you have greater knowledge in this area than me, i am happy to be corrected

    Public finances March13

    h ttp://—march-2013.html 15 1bn

    THe outcome at the time was 119bn it was revised down over the year by 4bn, but March 14 will probably come in at 14bn, giving a total of 113bn, Now over the year it will probably be revised down, but the headlines on the day of publication in April will look bad

  24. Just a thought…
    All these silly little pension pots (a la Jim Jam), poor value perceived on management of same and poor value on annuities.
    When I was running a small pension scheme it came to my notice that the Danish Government (?) were starting to market a scheme here which charged a fixed fee of £x per annum per pensioner irrespective of the size of the pot. Even for our very young and small scheme this was dramatically less of a charge than we could get in the ‘normal’ market and it would become ridiculously cheap by comparison as pension pots built up. We didn’t do anything about it as other changes overtook us.
    What’s not to like about this proposal:
    – the government offers a similar scheme open (but not mandated) to all employers running a pension fund. This is placed in a non-profit company guaranteed by the govt but with extensive governance arrangements for participants, employers and great-and-good NEDs
    -Anyone with a pension pot has the option to transfer it/them into this scheme
    -Scheme offers annuities (properly evaluated by actuaries) to holders of pension pots in the scheme (and perhaps pots outside it) in competition with private sector providers

    I can see a variety of benefits which would flow from this. Why don’t Lab cook up something like this?

  25. FV


    That will add to DEBT but not the Deficit.

    It is a one off change of status.

    Since Debt is £1.3 bn no one will notice the difference !

  26. £1.3 Trillion-doh !

  27. JIM JAM

    Debt interest 2014/15 £53 bn

    7.2% of Total Expenditure-or 8.2 % of Total Revenue-or 3.1% of GDP

  28. Thanks Colin – 3.1% seems a little high to me.

    When is projected to fall to 2% ish – I assume as Growth returns the trajectory is downwards?

  29. At 3.1% GDP, the interest is a lower burden than all but 2 years in the period 1914-1999.

  30. @JIM JAM

    “If below trend growth (whatever that is now) then all fine and dandy in my simple understanding.”


    You might consider paying interest above trend growth for a while if taking on the debt keeps the economy from spiralling downwards.

  31. Carfew – agree but ordinarily there should be sufficient space to use the stabilisers (automatic and not) to increase the annual deficits and hence increase debt above trend but keep the interests payment level below a target figure.
    My 2% maybe too low I am not an expert but I am also aware that whatever GB may have got wrong selling debt long at low rates has proved very beneficial.

    I guess in my subtle way I was trying to suggest that Growth is the key and can be supported by debt as long as the interest does not become an issue – so I think we on the same page.

  32. JIM JAM

    Had to go hunting in the OBR report to find your answer :-

    Interest as % GDP :-
    14/15 3.1%
    15/16 3.3%
    16/17 3.5%
    17/18 3.7%
    18/19 3.7%

    The figure for 18/19 is £75bn-more than the Education Budget, half the NHS Budget, 2 to 3 times the Defence Budget.

    I share your concern -mainly because of exposure. As we move towards peak Debt in the next Parliament of £1.5 Trillion & 80% of GDP, another external shock to the economy and/or an interest rate spike makes Debt Servicing a significant risk to Public Service provision.

    The Credit agencies effectively put this message out about UK only recently.

    The next Parliament is going to require a firm hand on the fiscal tiller.

  33. @JIM JAM

    “Carfew – agree but ordinarily there should be sufficient space to use the stabilisers (automatic and not) to increase the annual deficits and hence increase debt above trend but keep the interests payment level below a target figure.”


    Ideally, depending on the extent of the economic hit, access to cheap long term credit etc.

    After the war we got a very long term loan from the Americans, so despite the massive economic hit of the war and the losing of our empire markets after it, we still had a lot of growth.

    We needed the loan because tied, albeit indirectly, to the gold standard, we didn’t have the flexibility we have now.

    More recently, under the QE regime, we are getting lots of long term debt at very low rates. We can even repatriate interest on the debt from the BoE.

    Some other countries tied to the Euro do not enjoy such advantages.

    Of course, the bigger picture is that if we used such cheap debt to invest more, then interest costs might go up a bit, but growth benefits could eclipse this.

    So yes, we are broadly on the same page.

  34. Latest (Sunday) ICM poll in the Scotsman supports the move towards Yes in Panelbase;

    Excluding don’t knows (at 15%-1), it is Yes 45, No 55. Yes up 2, No down 3.

    Momentum with Yes.

    As I said in my post at the start of this thread, the Labour watered down offer on further devolution may be a game changer (positive for Yes).

  35. Which side is likely to benefit from this:

    “Yes Campaign victory could mean referendum on keeping the Queen, SNP minister says”

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