Sunday, April 06, 2014

Behavioural Economics and Constitutional Change

One of the ongoing projects in our research centre is a contribution to a wider ESRC centre on Constitutional Change in Scotland. This piece co-authored by myself and Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science at Edinburgh University, outlines how behavioural economics contributes to an understanding of the referendum voting process.
The upcoming referendum on 18th September in Scotland involves the people of Scotland making the choice of remaining within the UK or becoming an independent country. The referendum question itself asks simply:
“Should Scotland be an Independent country?”

Many arguments for and against this proposition have been marshalled and repeated through the media over the last year. The Yes side argue that an Independent Scotland would have greater autonomy to create a society more suited to the needs of Scottish people, that they would be able to better invest oil and other revenues, have independence in military matters and many other potential benefits. Conversely the no-side argue that the move would be risky in terms of breaking up an existing union that is working, that it would create problems in terms of Scotland’s currency arrangements and membership of the EU and that it would create security problems, again among many other arguments. Regardless of the merits of the arguments of both sides, a key factor in the outcome will be how people perceive risk and how they are willing to take risks.

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