LONDON: Scotland’s prospects of independence after a referendum in two weeks’ time received a boost Tuesday when a second opinion poll showed the “Yes” camp within touching distance of victory.
While all the polls have put the “No” camp ahead, the latest YouGov survey was the second in four days to suggest that the gap is closing ahead of the September 18 vote. A “Yes” would end a political and economic union which dates back to 1707 and would lead to the break-up of Britain, with potentially wide reaching consequences.
“The political atmosphere across Scotland now is electric,” wrote Magnus Linklater in the Times, one of the newspapers which carried the YouGov poll. “The fight is on. And there is no time to lose.” The YouGov poll found that 47 percent of people questioned would vote “Yes” to independence, compared to 53 percent who would vote “No”, excluding those who are still undecided.
YouGov’s last poll in mid-August put support for the “Yes” camp at 43 percent and for the “No” group at 57 percent. The latest survey of 1,063 people showed identical results to a Survation poll released Friday after a strong performance from pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond in a TV debate with the “No” camp’s leader, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. John Curtice, an academic and leading authority on Scottish opinion polls, cautioned against reading too much into one survey.
“But there seems little doubt that this poll will electrify the campaign,” he added on the What Scotland Thinks blog. “The ‘Yes’ side will now be able to argue with some conviction that they have gained momentum and can hope that they might yet secure a dramatic and historic victory. “The ‘No’ side, meanwhile, will be asking itself why it now apparently finds itself in a desperate last minute fight to keep Scotland in the union.”
The economy has been at the heart of the debate over whether Scotland should go independent. The two sides have traded blows over whether the country would be better off as an independent state drawing wealth from North Sea oil reserves or with the stability offered by staying part of Britain. And Tuesday’s poll showed the gap narrowing between those who think Scotland would be economically better or worse off in the event of independence.
A total of 44 percent said it would be worse off, down two points since mid-August, while 35 percent said it would be better off, up three points in the same period. Eleven percent said it would make no difference and one in ten said they didn’t know. Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign, said the poll showed his side “has the big momentum” while Blair McDougall, campaign director for the “No” camp Better Together, called on the “silent majority” to vote.
“The nationalists talk as if they are winning but the truth is this is yet another poll showing the campaign for Scotland to stay in the UK in the lead,” he added. The closeness of the polling figures suggest that turnout will be key to deciding Scotland’s future and Tuesday is the closing date for voters to register. Salmond is hopeful of an unprecedented 80 percent turnout and most analysts suggest the figure could be between 70 and 80 percent.
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