An Ipsos MORI poll released today for BBC Scotland shows that Scots do not want to see cuts made to the NHS or increases in council tax when public spending cuts bite. Instead, they would prefer the Scottish Government to address the budget deficit by reforming universal services such as free bus travel and personal care for the elderly, as well as by freezing public sector pay and introducing charges for drivers on major roads. The extent of the budget cuts to hit Scotland will be outlined next week after the Chancellor, George Osborne, announces the findings from the Comprehensive Spending Review. The poll sought to establish the Scottish public's preferences for the likely options facing the Scottish Government, outlined in the recent Independent Budget Review (IBR). In the analysis of the results, each option was given a relative preference score based on the choices made by respondents. From this, the option to cut NHS spending in line with cuts made elsewhere received only 2% of the overall share of preference, while the option to allow local councils to increase the council tax received only 4%. The most popular option is to raise the age at which people qualify for free bus travel from 60 to 65, which has almost a third of the share of preference (31%). It is ten percentage points ahead of the second most preferred option, to freeze public sector pay (21%), and three times more acceptable than the options to charge drivers for using major roads (9%) and to charge older people on higher incomes for their personal care (9%). Mark Diffley, Research Director at Ipsos MORI Scotland said:
160"This survey presents a clear indication of where public priorities lie, which measures may be acceptable to many and those which the public want to resist at all costs. The overwhelming public desire to avoid cutting NHS budgets is in line with surveys across the UK which consistently show strong support for the NHS remaining unscathed from cuts. Reducing the reach of free bus travel and freezing pay in the public sector will clearly carry more public support. Of course, the Scottish Government also needs to factor in how much money will be saved by implementing any of these measures."
The survey, conducted by telephone160among 1,000 adults across Scotland from 17-22 September 2010, was commissioned by BBC Scotland to coincide with a series of programmes being aired in the lead up to the publication of the spending review.
In order to gain accurate measures of public perceptions, Ipsos MORI employed a `paired choice' approach. This means that each of the 10 options put forward in the IBR was paired off against one another, giving 45 pairs in total. These pairs of options were then split into five groups of 9 pairs, with each pair being presented to 200 respondents. In turn, this meant that each option was presented 1,800 times in total.