Osborne Denying Pound for Scots Does Little to Sway Opinion Poll

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s warning last week that an independent Scotland would lose the pound has done little to influence voters, according to the first poll since his speech.

The survey by Survation for the Scottish Daily Mail published today showed 37.7 percent of respondents in favor of independence compared with 46.6 percent against. That nine percentage-point gap compares with 12 points in a comparable study, it said. The canvassing was conducted on Feb. 17-18.

“Today’s poll suggests it has proved less decisive than the ‘No’ side might have hoped,” John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University, wrote in the newspaper. “The announcement has failed to depress a Yes vote that has increased somewhat in recent weeks.”

The argument over Scotland’s constitutional future has stepped up a gear and gone nationwide, culminating last night in rock star David Bowie asking Scots to “stay with us.”

In a speech in Edinburgh a week ago, Osborne ruled out a currency union should Scots choose to go it alone in a Sept. 18 referendum. Since then, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso raised the specter of Scotland’s being denied swift entry into the European Union, while yesterday Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said an independent Scotland would face higher borrowing costs.

Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond said Osborne was “bluffing,” while Finance Minister John Swinney’s office said Alexander was plain wrong on the cost of debt should Scotland choose to become Europe’s newest independent state. Swinney earlier dismissed Barroso’s comment as “preposterous.”

Polling Sample

The poll in the Scottish Daily Mail sampled 1,005 voters at least 16 years old, the minimum age to participate in the referendum. Curtice, who specializes in analyzing polls, said the jump in the “Yes” vote may reflect a change in how the canvassing was conducted. The data was adjusted to take into account demographics and the results of the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election, in which Salmond’s Scottish National Party won an unprecedented majority.

A monthly poll by TNS published today showed the increase in support for Scottish independence ground to a halt, though it was taken before the U.K. government warned the country it would be denied a currency union Salmond has called “common sense.”

Backing for breaking away from the 307-year-old U.K. was unchanged at 29 percent after rising for three straight months, while the proportion of voters wanting to keep the status quo stayed at 42 percent, the TNS survey found. People who said they were undecided remained at 29 percent. In the Survation poll for the Scottish Daily Mail, 15.7 percent were undecided.

TNS contacted 996 people at least 16 years old between Jan. 28 and Feb. 6. The 13 percentage-point gap narrows to nine points, matching the Survation suvey, when adjusted for people who said they were certain to vote.

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