Educated Scots are getting behind self-government

Link between level of education and `yes' vote has been broken

Julia Belgutay

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Next month's referendum on Scottish independence is turning long-established links between educational attainment and feelings towards Scottish independence on their head, according to the authors of this year's Scottish Social Attitudes survey.

Overall support for greater Scottish autonomy is now stronger among the well-educated than the rest of the population, according to the University of Edinburgh's Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy, and Dr Jan Eichhorn, chancellor's fellow in social policy.

Their report, Who is still wavering? Turnout and the undecided, states: "This has never happened before; previously Scottish self-government has always been most strongly supported by people who have not had much education."

The survey, published this week, comes only days after the formal launch of Teachers for Yes by members of the profession. The group's supporters believe that an independent Scotland is the best way to safeguard the country's education system from Westminster cuts.

Although Teachers for Yes has had a social media presence for a number of weeks, it was formally launched only last Sunday via a YouTube video published on Monday.

According to the Yes Scotland campaign, the Teachers for Yes group had more than 500 members at the time of its launch and has published an "education guarantee" that proposes to enshrine education and employment rights into a written Scottish constitution, as well as calling for more investment in schools.

Teachers for Yes member Matthew Wilson, an English teacher from Leith, said that Westminster's cutbacks were having a direct impact on Scotland's classrooms.

"Devolution has been good for Scotland, yet it cannot shield our education system from the damaging effects of Westminster governance and its knock-on financial effects through continued austerity," he said.

"With Yes [Scotland], we can choose to increase funding to education - from building and refurbishing more schools, to ensuring we maintain free higher education."

Education has largely been at the fringes of the referendum debate, as it is already devolved and many believe that independence would have little impact on the sector. Scottish teaching unions have remained neutral on the issue.

But in examining the link between voters' level of education and their feelings towards an independent Scotland, the report by Professor Paterson and Dr Eichhorn has brought it back into the discussion.

The survey, which was carried out in June, shows that the percentage of people intending to vote yes is almost the same regardless of their level of education. These findings contrast with a year ago, when significant differences between those with higher levels of educational attainment and those with secondary or no qualifications were recorded.

"This weakening of the relationship between education and constitutional preference is unprecedented," Professor Lindsay and Dr Eichhorn write.

Including undecided respondents who state they may be inclined to vote yes, the proportion of those with higher education saying they will vote for independence is about 90 per cent. Only 75 per cent of those with no qualifications say the same.

Professor Paterson told TESS that people were now more politically engaged than he had seen with any other political campaign, with debates taking place in schools and the interest of young first-time voters being one example of this. He said he hoped a "positive legacy" would be left beyond the outcome of the vote.

A Better Together campaign spokesman said: "People from across Scotland and from all different backgrounds are saying no thanks to separation." He added that the key issue for voters was the economy. "That is why it is absolutely vital that the First Minister outlines his Plan B on currency. Currency is about more than the notes and coins in our pocket," he said.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said it was encouraging to see support for an independent Scotland reach its highest level since 2005.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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