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Study confirms link between risk-taking and referendum view

THE extent to which independence appeals more to life's risk-takers is revealed in a major academic study published today.

A report based on a survey of more than 2000 voters shows nearly half of Yes supporters see themselves as very willing to take risks. By contrast, less than one-third of No supporters are big risk-takers, the study found.

The conclusions, revealed by a team from Strling University, appear to vindicate the different strategies of the two campaigns in the referendum fight.

The pro-UK Better Together campaign has consistently sought to portray independence as a potentially damaging leap in the dark, with uncertainty over issues such as the currency.

In response, the Yes campaign has repeatedly accused the No camp of "scaremongering," while Alex Salmond's so-called indy-lite vision for Scotland has emphasised proposals to share the pound and the BBC and retain institutions such as the monarchy.

The study, led by Professor David Bell, found a striking correlation between risk-takers and independence supporters.

It was based on a survey of 2037 Scots who were asked to rate themselves on a scale of zero to 10 on their "willingness to take a risk," with 10 being the most willing.

Researchers found 46% of Yes supporters rated themselves as seven out of 10 or higher, compared with 28% of No voters.

A much closer link between risk-taking and independence emerged than between other factors, such as religious affiliation or education, and how people plan to vote on September 18.

It partly, though by no means fully,explains why women have been less likely to back a Yes vote.

On average, women's appetite to take risks was 18% lower than men's, according to the YouGov survey on which the study was based. Among its other findings, the study showed people with no religious affiliation and Roman Catholics were more likely to vote Yes than Church of Scotland members.

A clear majority of Yes supporters want to keep the pound but a significant minority, 25%, would prefer a new currency.

Surprisingly, a small percentage of Yes voters would actually prefer Scotland to remain part of the UK but with more devolved powers for Holyrood.

Yes voters were also more likely to favour increased immigration - a key pledge in the SNP's independence White Paper - and a more generous welfare system.

No voters were more concerned about pensions and the national debt.

Professor Bell said: "The referendum will be decided partly by people's perception of economic costs and benefits.

"It is important to understand how these perceptions are formed and our research provides a strong step in this direction.

"What the campaigns are trying to do is change people's perceptions about risk. The No campaign is trying to increase the perception of risk and the Yes campaign is trying to reduce it."

A spokesman for Better Together said: "Breaking away from the UK would involve huge risks that we Scots simply don't need to take."

But Sarah-Jane Walls, a spokeswoman for Yes Scotland, said: "The biggest risk to Scotland's future is a No vote, leaving us under the control of Westminster which is out of touch and willing to gamble, for example, with our place in Europe simply to appease the rise of Ukip south of the Border.

"We have found that the more the people of Scotland are informed of facts, figures and reality, the more likely they are to reject a future under the control and austerity imposed by Westminster and have decided to vote Yes on September 18."

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