Scottish Independence Gains Momentum as Poll Shows Gap Narrowing

Support for Scottish independence is gaining among voters as a poll showed nationalists are closing the deficit with their opponents five months before the September referendum.

A survey by TNS published today found the gap narrowed to 12 percentage points from 14 points a month earlier and 19 points in September when the company started monthly polling. The results showed 41 percent of voters in Scotland plan to reject independence, a drop of one point, with 29 percent in favor, an increase of one point. Thirty percent of voters said they were undecided, unchanged from a month before.

“Many undecided voters are telling us that they will definitely cast their vote, and how the campaigns address their interests is likely to have a big influence on the final outcome,” Tom Costley, head of TNS in Scotland, said in an e-mailed statement. “More and more people are realizing the importance of this referendum.”

Scotland’s constitutional future will be decided on Sept. 18 in a vote brought about by the Scottish National Party-led government in Edinburgh. The decision before the electorate is whether the country should create a new sovereign state and run its own affairs or stick with the status quo after U.K. government warnings over an independent Scotland’s future currency, cost of borrowing and European Union membership.

The main political parties in London oppose Scottish independence, uniting in February to rule out sharing the pound should the country choose to secede from the U.K.

Close Race

Bookmakers have reduced the odds on a “yes” vote in recent months as momentum shifted toward independence. William Hill Plc predicted last week it might be a “photo finish.”

TNS said it polled 988 adults at least age 16, the minimum to vote in the referendum, on March 21 to April 2. No margin of error was given. The proportion of respondents who said they would definitely vote rose to a high of 74 percent compared with 65 percent in September, the company said.

The vote is run along similar lines to a local election, so it’s open to residents in Scotland from across the European Union rather than just British citizens. The question on the ballot will be “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The TNS results compare with a five percentage-point difference in a poll taken by Panelbase on March 28 to April 4. That survey found 46 percent of people against independence and 41 percent in favor, with 14 percent undecided.

Nuclear Debate

Panelbase typically reports a narrower gap than other polling companies. At the other end, a survey by Ipsos MORI conducted Feb. 20 to Feb. 25 put the pro-U.K. campaign 25 points ahead based on people who said they were sure to vote.

The debate so far this week has focused on the military and what would happen to Britain’s nuclear deterrent based in Scotland should the country break away. The SNP, led by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, opposes nuclear weapons.

The relocation of the arsenal from the Faslane base west of Glasgow would be the focus of a “long and protracted negotiation,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in a speech on a visit to Scotland yesterday. SNP defense spokesman Angus Robertson responded by saying Scotland needed naval vessels and marine defense rather than “another flying visit and lecture.”

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