Media Release: Stirling professor to investigate the economics of Scottish independence

PROFESSOR David Bell has been awarded one of seven new senior fellowships by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and a research grant of £300,000, to investigate the likely effect on the Scottish economy of a vote for Scottish independence in 2014.

Professor Bell’s research will focus on the fiscal aspects of constitutional change but will also look at how people’s attitudes reflect the way they are likely to vote.

Professor Bell says: “I will be examining existing patterns of public taxation and spending in Scotland – who benefits from the way that the money is spent now – and the implications of a new tax structure in the event of independence – what happens to taxation when states break up.

“I will be studying also the factors which influence people’s voting intentions and the characteristics which make people more likely, or less likely, to support the idea of independence. How will people’s view of Scotland’s future economic prospects affect their voting intentions? And will those who try to avoid risk be more likely to vote for the status quo?

“It’s very exciting to be working on a project which is central to the whole argument of the most historic decision made in Scotland in over 300 years.”

The study includes a conference on fiscal federalism at the University of Stirling, to be attended by international experts with experience of independence movements in Canada, Belgium, Spain and eastern Europe.

But an important element of the research is the need to communicate his findings to wider audiences, so that the general public is more informed about the implications of independence.

In advance of the 2014 referendum, Professor Bell will be holding a series of events from Inverness to London to inform the public about the results of his research.

The seven ESRC fellowships will provide evidence and analysis across a range of issues and policy areas affected by the Scotland independence debate and the longer term future of Scotland.

ESRC chief executive, Professor Paul Boyle, comments: “The consequences of the outcome of the vote will be significant. The process of preparation is also, in itself, likely to have impact.

“It’s crucial that the best possible independent research evidence should be available to inform those who need it, such as Scottish voters, and individuals and organisations inside and outside Scotland who are making decisions which may be affected by the vote process and outcome.”

Professor Bell will be working with the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the Treasury and the UK and Scottish governments throughout his year long research. He will also be working with Angus Armstrong, a Stirling graduate who is now Director of Macroeconomic Research at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and has also been awarded a senior fellowship by the ESRC.

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