News / Europe

Poll Shows Record Support for Scottish Independence

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.
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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid