Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is right to be nervous ahead of this month’s independence referendumm, as support grows for the Yes campaign.
With little more than two weeks before the Sept. 18 ballot and postal voting already under way, Salmond told Sky News in an interview yesterday that the pro-independence campaign is gaining momentum and “a huge number of Labour voters are supporting Yes.”
“The Yes support is rising in this campaign,” Salmond said. “We’re still the underdogs, we’ve still got a distance to travel, but if we’re making the prime minister nervous, I suspect we’re doing something right.”
Polls have narrowed since Salmond’s performance on Aug. 25 in the second televised debate against Alistair Darling, the former chancellor of the exchequer who heads the anti-independence Better Together campaign. While support for Scotland to remain part of the U.K. still dominates, enough voters are undecided to cause a potential upset.
Cameron told the Scottish Daily Mail at the weekend that while he is confident Scotland will reject independence in the referendum, he was “nervous because it matters so much.”
A Survation poll for the same newspaper last week found that the No vote had dropped two percentage points since Aug. 9 to 48 percent, while 42 percent of respondents said they would vote Yes, an increase of four points. The survey found 11 percent of respondents still didn’t know how they would cast their ballot.
Nationalists are hoping to win over enough undecided voters to secure independence. Yes Scotland Chief Executive Blair Jenkins today urged Scots to register to vote if they hadn’t already done so.
“Yes is getting overwhelming support from people who don’t usually take part in elections,” he said in a statement. “Anyone who doubts the importance of their personal vote should look at the narrowing of the opinion polls and what is at stake.”
Referendum campaigning has been marred by accusations that nationalists have deliberately targeted pro-union events. Labour lawmaker and No campaigner Jim Murphy suspended his speaking tour last week after Yes supporters pelted him with eggs and threatened him in Kirkcaldy, the home town of former Labour prime minister and fellow No campaigner Gordon Brown.
“This isn’t your run-of-the-mill opposition heckling,” Murphy told Sky News. “It’s coordinated, it’s sinister.”
Salmond dismissed allegations that such attacks were deliberately orchestrated by the Yes campaign as “ridiculous,” and condemned intimidation from any side.
“This is the greatest democratic engagement that Scotland has ever seen,” Salmond said. “Hundreds of thousands of people who have never been interested in politics before are now engaged in the most empowering debate in political history.”
Salmond’s claim that independence would be the best route for Scotland to preserve the National Health Service found support with Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University in London. Pollock told Scotland’s Sunday Herald newspaper that NHS reforms in England could result in reduced funding in Scotland and that independence was the “clearest” way of protecting that.
To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org Bruce Stanley