Scots Independence Support Gains as Pound Threat Ignored

Support for an independent Scotland rose in two polls, narrowing the lead held by the campaign to keep the U.K. together one month before the Sept. 18 referendum.

The pro-independence camp gained 4 percentage points to 38 percent as backing for a No vote rose 2 points to 47 percent, an ICM poll for yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday newspaper found. Excluding undecided voters, Yes support climbed 2 points to 45 percent and No dropped 2 points to 55 percent. A separate poll commissioned by the Yes side put the gap at 4 percentage points.

Voter opinion on the future of the 307-year-old United Kingdom appears to be hardening as campaigning enters the decisive stage. ICM found 14 percent of voters undecided, down from 21 percent from last month, after the No campaign focused on uncertainty over the currency to be used in an independent Scotland.

The poll “raises questions about just how persuasive this argument is proving to be,” John Curtice, a professor of politics and polling expert at the University of Strathclyde, said in an article for Edinburgh-based Scotland on Sunday.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said an independent state would walk away from its share of U.K. debt unless it’s allowed into a currency union to use the pound, something British Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out.

‘Campaign Tactic’

Alistair Darling, the former chancellor of the exchequer who heads the No campaign, was judged the winner of an Aug. 5 televised debate with Salmond after repeatedly pressing him for a Plan B. Salmond refused, saying the U.K. government stance, shared by the three main parties at Westminster, was a “campaign tactic” and not a serious prospect.

The ICM poll of 1,005 people found 52 percent said Salmond’s currency plan was “unconvincing” with 26 percent finding it convincing. Even so, 45 percent said they believe an independent Scotland would be able to use the pound in much the same way as it does now, with 38 saying they believe the U.K. government line that Scotland wouldn’t be able to use the pound. Nearly twice as many undecided voters said they believed Scotland would be able to continue using the pound as not.

“For all the emphasis given to this issue by the No side, it appears that it has signally failed to convince most Scots that its threat is credible,” said Curtice.

A separate Panelbase poll for the Yes campaign, published in yesterday’s Sunday Herald newspaper, found support for independence at 42 percent compared to 46 against, with 12 percent undecided. Excluding the undecided voters, Yes support rose to 48 percent from 46 percent at the end of July, while No backing slid to 52 percent from 54 percent, the newspaper said. The survey of 1,026 people was conducted Aug. 12-15.

A second televised debate between Salmond and Darling, to be broadcast by the BBC, is scheduled on Aug. 25.

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