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Over half of doctors in Scotland plan to vote against independence, finds poll

Fears over future of Scottish economy fuelling resistance to separation from UK

Caroline White

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Six in 10 doctors in Scotland asked about their voting intentions in next month’s referendum on Scottish independence, plan to give the thumbs down to the proposal, reveals a snapshot survey* carried out by The BMJ.

Fears over the future of the Scottish economy under independence are the main reason why they intend to vote against separation from the rest of the UK on September 18, the responses show.

The survey was sent to 2,297 doctors in Scotland, and 311 responded, giving a 14% response rate. Among those who declared their role, 125 were GPs, 148 were hospital doctors, 13 were clinical researchers and 28 described themselves as “other” types of doctor.

The responses showed that 60% intend to vote ‘no’ to independence, while one in three (33%) plan to vote ‘yes’. A further 6% were undecided, while 1% said they would not vote.

The results suggest that the doctors surveyed are more staunchly opposed to independence than the overall population of Scotland, 37% of whom currently plan to vote in favour, and 52% of whom plan to vote against, while 11% remain undecided, according to an Ipsos Mori poll at the beginning of August.

Doctors were asked to assess how their views on seven specific topic areas would influence their voting intentions: the economy; the standard of health and social care; the state of medical research; the level of autonomy over the healthcare system and how it is financed; the level of autonomy over medical education; the level of regulation of the medical profession; and the ability to determine laws on issues such as abortion, surrogacy, and xenotransplantation.

Of the 185 doctors intending to vote against, 91% (166) said the most influential factor was a belief that the economy would suffer under independence, followed by the feeling that this would also be the case for medical research in Scotland (72%; 132).

Similarly, two thirds (67%; 122) said they didn’t believe that Scotland needed its own professional regulatory body.

On the other hand, the most influential factor for the 104 doctors planning to vote ‘yes’ was a belief that people would get better health and social care under independence, with 86% (89) citing this as their primary reason.

Second in line was the wish for Scotland to have more autonomy about its healthcare system and how it is financed, which was cited by 84% (87) of those planning on voting in favour of independence.

One ‘no’ voter said:  “An independent Scotland cannot afford the current level of healthcare provision”, while another felt that independence “would be very harmful for our long-term health needs here in Scotland.” Among ‘yes’ voters, one respondent said independence “could make it easier for Scotland to tailor health and social care to what is needed, wanted, and works locally.”

* Gareth Iacobucci. Six in 10 doctors in Scotland plan to vote against independence. BMJ 2014;349:g5072. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g5072

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