THE No vote against independence is hardening, according to a new poll indicating that 59 per cent of Scots now reject Alex Salmond’s plans to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.
A YouGov poll, published today, reveals that the No side has increased its lead over Yes by four percentage points in the past ten months.
When compared with a similar YouGov poll published at the end of October last year, today’s figures show that support for independence has remained at 29 per cent, while those intending to vote No has increased from 55 per cent to 59 per cent.
The survey of 1,171 Scottish adults carried out last month was commissioned by the DevoPlus campaign, which believes that the Unionist parties should work together to offer a more powerful Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote.
Other results uncovered by the poll were interpreted by DevoPlus as an indication that voters would be even more inclined to vote No if an enhanced devolved settlement was put on the table before the referendum.
The headline figure, revealing a surge in No support as the number of “don’t knows” fell from 14 per cent to 10 per cent, was welcomed by the Better Together campaign.
“This is another encouraging poll for Better Together,” said Blair McDougall, the campaign’s director. “First, because undecided voters continue to turn their back on the dishonest independence campaign. Second, because it shows that we are reaching out to Yes voters with our positive message about continuing the success of devolution.
“With a year to go, Yes Scotland are further behind than they were when they launched their campaign. This poll will surely add to the sense of crisis in the nationalist camp. However, supporters of Scotland remaining in the UK cannot afford a moment’s complacency. The SNP have come back from behind before.”
McDougall added: “The lesson from this poll is that we will need to work as hard over the next year as we have done so far.”
Further analysis of the poll, examining the sample’s attitude towards constitutional change, found that 25 per cent of Labour voters had yet to commit to voting No in the referendum. Ten per cent of Labour supporters did not know which way they would vote and another 15 per cent said they would vote Yes.
Amongst SNP voters, 10 per cent said they would reject the party’s key policy and vote No. A further 8 per cent did not know which box they would tick in the referendum ballot.
Those surveyed were also asked about their views on the Scottish Parliament having more powers along the lines envisaged by the DevoPlus campaign – whereby Holyrood would be responsible for raising most of the money it spends, with Westminster retaining control over items like defence and foreign affairs.
The poll asked the 41 per cent who were not signed up to voting No, if they were more likely to support remaining within the UK if voting that way would lead to a DevoPlus-style settlement. It found that 16 per cent of them were more likely to vote No if DevoPlus was on the table.
Broken down by party, almost one-in-three Labour voters not intending to vote No would also be more likely to do so. Even one in ten SNP voters would be more likely to vote No if it meant that Scotland would get DevoPlus.
When the sample was taken as a whole, 56 per cent said they wanted the parties to set out the extra powers that would come to Holyrood in the event of a No vote before the referendum takes place.
The chairman of DevoPlus, Ben Thomson, said: “Our previous polling on this issue showed that DevoPlus was the most popular option for Scotland’s constitutional future and this poll confirms its popularity. Clearly demonstrated is the widespread public backing for an agreement on more powers for the Scottish Parliament in advance of the referendum, and the impact agreement could have on the result.”
Thomson added: “Strikingly, for every person who believes an agreement can wait until after the referendum, there are five who want an agreement now.”
Thomson was speaking as Sir Kenneth Calman, who oversaw the commission which recommended devolving more income tax powers, suggested that another body is set up to look at new powers if there is a No vote.
Yesterday, Nationalists took comfort from the figures indicating that the majority of Scots wanted some form of constitutional change.
Linda Fabiani, an SNP MSP on the Referendum Bill committee, said: “Between support for independence and support for more powers, 70 per cent of people back self-government for Scotland and the clear fact is that only a Yes vote can deliver more powers and make sure that decisions about Scotland are taken here in Scotland.”
A Yes Scotland spokesman said: “Whatever additional powers the anti-independence parties may or may not promise – whether that is before or after the referendum – they will not come anywhere close to what is proposed by DevoPlus. In any event, DevoPlus is not on offer and it is becoming clear to increasing numbers of people that a Yes vote is the only way to guarantee the kind of powers they want.
“Next year’s referendum is about two choices. One is sticking with a Westminster system that isn’t working for Scotland and has led to the UK becoming one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The other is an opportunity to make decisions that match our own priorities and aspirations and to build a fairer and more prosperous country.
“Only a Yes vote can deliver that opportunity.”