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Localism is at the heart of this debate

Rachel Dalton
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Ipsos MORI’s latest poll on Scottish referendum voting intentions shows that of those who describe themselves as certain to vote, 36% intend to vote for independence, 54% intend to vote against, and 10% are as yet undecided.

A Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy analysis demonstrates why some may find it difficult to decide. As Don Peebles summarises, an independent Scotland’s financial health is difficult to determine.

Cipfa’s best estimates suggest Scotland would have a balance sheet broadly similar to that of the UK as a whole, but this comes with an important caveat that it is impossible to take into account all the future factors affecting Scotland’s financial outlook.

The impact on English local authorities, particularly those in the north, remains unclear. As Newcastle City Council chief executive Pat Ritchie writes, northern councils must establish a game plan that takes into account both the possibility of benefiting from an independent Scotland’s success, and of suffering if an independent nation takes action that would give its businesses an advantage over their southerly neighbours.

The debate will fuel discussions over taxation and funding of public services.

Our report from an LGA conference session on Scotland’s current funding arrangement, which uses the much-derided Barnett formula, demonstrates that whatever happens the UK cannot go on allocating funding via such a crude mechanism.

This brings us to what is at the heart of this debate: localism. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s campaigns for more autonomy are driven by similar sentiments to those of English local authorities, which need power to devise and implement tailored solutions to localised problems.

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