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Scottish Voters Add to Support for Keeping Union With U.K.

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Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- More voters in Scotland want to keep the country in the U.K. after the debate over independence intensified this month, the latest poll showed.

The monthly survey by ICM Research for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper found those in favor of retaining the 307-year-old union jumped five percentage points to 49 percent, returning to where it was in September as the proportion of undecided voters declined. Thirty-seven percent would vote for independence in the Sept. 18 referendum, unchanged from January.

Last month saw the first marked shift in opinion in favor of the pro-independence campaign. Since then, the argument over Scotland’s constitutional future has taken center stage in British politics, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet meeting in Aberdeen today to extol the virtues of remaining in the U.K. for the oil and gas industry.

In a speech in Edinburgh on Feb. 13, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne ruled out a currency union should Scots choose to go it alone. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso then raised the specter of Scotland’s being denied swift entry into the European Union, while last week Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said an independent Scotland would face higher borrowing costs.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, whose nationalist administration also meets in the northeast of the country today to discuss investment in the North Sea oil industry, has dismissed the onslaught as “bluster.”

Little Influence

This month’s ICM poll contrasts with a survey published in the Scottish Daily Mail on Feb. 20, which showed Osborne’s warning on losing the pound did little to influence voters.

Pollster Survation found 37.7 percent of respondents in favor of independence compared with 46.6 percent against. The canvassing was conducted on Feb. 17-18. ICM spoke to 1,004 people of voting age on Feb. 17-21. No margin of error was given for either study.

The Financial Times reported that 65 percent of chairmen of FTSE 100 Index companies who participated in a poll said Scottish independence would be bad for business. The survey was conducted by recruitment firm Korn Ferry and included 29 chairmen representing 32 companies, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 1,000 workers in the North Sea oil and gas industry found 70 percent of respondents would vote “yes” to independence for Scotland. The poll was conducted via the Facebook page of Oilandgaspeople.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rodney Jefferson in Edinburgh at r.jefferson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris5@bloomberg.net