News / Europe

Poll Shows Record Support for Scottish Independence

Labour party MP Jim Murphy addresses a crowd during his
Labour party MP Jim Murphy addresses a crowd during his "100 streets in 100 days" tour to promote the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 2, 2014.
Reuters

A poll showing support for Scottish independence at its highest ever level threw the fate of the United Kingdom into question on Tuesday, just two weeks before Scots vote on whether to secede.

The poll by YouGov showed the unionist lead had shrunk to 6 percentage points from 22 a month ago as support for independence jumped to 47 percent in August, suggesting a major shift in opinion ahead of the Sept. 18 referendum.

After months of polls showing nationalists heading for defeat in the vote, the YouGov poll for the first time raises the real prospect that secessionists could achieve their goal of breaking the 307-year-old union with England.

“A 'Yes' victory is now a real possibility,” YouGov President Peter Kellner, one of Britain's most respected pollsters, said. “A close finish looks likely.”

Polls show different levels of support for the unionist campaign and although none have shown the independence camp in the lead, the sudden surge indicated by the poll electrified Britain's political class after its summer break.

A vote to breakaway would be followed by negotiations with London on what to do about sterling, the national debt, North Sea oil and the future of Britain's nuclear submarine base in Scotland ahead of independence penciled in for March 24, 2016.

If Scots voted to leave the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron would face calls to resign ahead of a national election in May 2015 while Labor's chances of gaining a majority could be scuppered if it lost its Scottish lawmakers.

Sterling fell to near a five-month low against the dollar and also slipped versus a generally weak euro on Tuesday, while the cost of hedging against sharp swings in the pound rose as investors sought to insure against the risk of secession.

Traders saw further losses as the vote approaches.

“A Scottish 'Yes' to independence poses far more questions  than it answers but my best guess is that a 'Yes' would trigger a 3-5 percent fall by sterling as an initial reaction,” said Kit Juckes, currency analyst at Societe Generale.

Close finish?

YouGov's Kellner, 67, said the poll data was so astounding that when he first saw it, he double checked to see if there had been a sampling error. But he said that after checking the data, he was certain a real movement had taken place.

“When I first saw our data, I wanted to make sure the movement was real,” he said. “I am certain it is.”

The poll was carried out on Aug. 28-Sept. 1 and 1,063 people were questioned.

When respondents were asked how they would vote in the referendum, 42 percent said they would vote for independence while 48 percent said they would vote against. Eight percent said they did not know and 2 percent did not intend to vote.

It was the first time YouGov has showed support for “Yes” above 40 percent and support for “No” below 50 percent. About 4 million Scottish residents have a vote in the referendum, so the poll indicates 320,000 voters are still undecided.

By excluding those not intending to vote or undecided, the poll showed support for keeping the union at 53 percent against 47 percent seeking independence.

“The 'Yes' campaign has both gained converts, and secured a two-to-one lead among people who were undecided and have now taken sides,” Kellner said.

Supporters of the Labor party, traditionally the dominant political force in Scotland, had become more supportive of independence, while economic worries about the prospect of independence had diminished, YouGov said.

Odds narrow

Scottish nationalists said the poll, which comes just over a week after pro-independence leader Alex Salmond won a television debate, was a breakthrough moment in the campaign.

“More and more people are beginning to realize that a 'Yes' vote is Scotland's one opportunity to make that enormous wealth work better for everybody who lives and works here,” said Blair Jenkins, head of the independence campaign team.

Nationalists accuse London of squandering Scotland's wealth and say Scotland would be one of the world's richest countries if it took control of its own destiny.

Unionists, including Britain's three main political parties, say the United Kingdom is stronger if it stays together and that Scottish independence would bring significant financial, economic and political uncertainty.

Jenkins said the unionist campaign was in panic but the British government said it had confidence in its argument in favor of Scotland staying part of the United Kingdom.

“The only poll that counts is the referendum itself,” Cameron's spokesman told reporters.

“There isn't a change in the approach that the government has been and will be taking, which is in summary a real confidence in the argument that the government and others are making.”

Bookmaker Ladbrokes said that the odds on a vote in favor of independence had narrowed overnight since the poll to 11/4, meaning punters now put the likelihood of a split at its highest since May this year. That continued a narrowing trend seen since the first television debate in August when the odds were 5/1.

“Since the second debate we've been taking upwards of 5,000 pounds worth of bets a day for 'Yes' from all over Scotland,” said Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Donohue. “It's basically one way traffic at the moment.”

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs