Scottish independence poll: Result down to wire

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THE battle for Scotland’s future is on a knife edge as a new poll of polls last night suggested the vote was too close to call, with just days to go before the referendum.

A independent analysis of the six most recent polls put the Yes campaign on 49 per cent and No on 51 per cent.

First Minister Alex Salmond gives the thumbs up to young supporters of the Yes campaign in Glasgow yesterday. Picture: Getty

First Minister Alex Salmond gives the thumbs up to young supporters of the Yes campaign in Glasgow yesterday. Picture: Getty

It came on the most intensive day of political campaigning that Scotland has ever seen.

Last night Panelbase put Yes on 49.4 per cent and No on 50.6 per cent; Survation had Yes on 46 per cent and No on 54 per cent; Opinium had Yes on 47 per cent and No on 53 per cent; and most dramatically and against the trend, ICM had Yes on 54 per cent and No on 46 per cent. They followed two close polls by ICM on Friday and YouGov on Thursday.

The reliability of the ICM poll, which suggested a lead for Yes, was questioned due to the small sample of just 700 respondents, with 1,000 at least usually required for an accurate picture.

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said: “Taken in the round, the poll of polls shows that the referendum is on a knife edge. With four days to go there is everything to play for and these figures will encourage everyone who wants and is working hard for a Yes vote to redouble their efforts.

“Over the next few days and right up to the close of polls we will be working flat out to achieve a Yes vote.”

Blair McDougall, campaign director at Better Together, said last night: “If there is one clear message from today’s four polls it’s that every single vote counts. There is no room for a protest vote when so much is at stake with the irreversible decision we will make.

“This fight for the future of Scotland will go down to the wire, but it’s a fight we will win.

“Events of recent days make clear the stark choice we face on Thursday. We can take on all the risks of separation - risks to jobs, pensions, the pound, prices and our NHS - or we can vote for a brighter future for Scotland within the UK.

“Why would we take the risk of separation when there is faster, better, safer change coming to Scotland as part of the UK? Voting No on Thursday will secure the best future for Scotland.”

The four polls yesterday came as some of the biggest names in Scottish and UK politics joined tens of thousands of activists on the streets and on the doorsteps.

As he continued his helicopter tour of Scotland, Alex Salmond said a “day of celebration” would follow a Yes vote as he predicted a referendum victory that would see Scotland become “sovereign for the first time in three centuries”.

His remarks prompted Better Together to warn the First Minister that planning a party before the country has gone to the polls looked like he was taking votes for granted.

Despite still trailing in the majority of polls, Yes Scotland strategists remained confident of victory.

Writing in today’s Scotland on Sunday, Salmond shared his strategists’ optimism as his campaign prepared for its final push.

“Thursday is a date with destiny,” the First Minister writes. “It is a day when Scotland will be sovereign for the first time in more than three centuries. It is a precious and historic opportunity, and a moment which is rare in the life of any nation.”

Urging voters to put “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”, Salmond claimed that his campaign had “reinvigorated the democratic process” across Scotland.

While some have viewed the months of campaigning that have preceded this week’s vote as having re-energised Scottish politics, others have been dismayed by the divisions that have opened up.

Yesterday hundreds of Yes supporters massed in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street waving Saltires, more than 35,000 Yes volunteers took up position at 473 registered street stalls and 2.6 million leaflets were delivered in 48 hours.

Better Together was engaged in its own feverish activity as Alistair Darling claimed there were still 500,000 undecided voters upon whom the outcome of the referendum depended.

In an article for Scotland on Sunday, the Better Together leader warned that voters could not risk a protest vote on Thursday, arguing that the last week has shown the “costs of separation” with billions of pounds wiped off the value of Scottish companies.

Reflecting on business reaction to the threat of independence, Darling writes that thousands of jobs were at risk after Lloyds, RBS, Clydesdale and Tesco Bank last week announced contingency plans to move their headquarters to England in the event of a Yes vote.

“This all ties back to the Nationalists’ failure to develop a Plan B on currency,” the former Labour chancellor wrote.

Briefing journalists yesterday Darling said that the uncertainty over Salmond’s currency plans was one of five issues that still required answers from the First Minister – the others being jobs, pensions, the future of public services including the NHS and supermarkets’ warnings of price rises after a Yes vote.

He also said he was confident that No would prevail once votes were counted this week.

As Thursday draws nearer the febrile atmosphere is expected to intensify with David Cameron set to return north of the Border tomorrow for his last visit to Scotland before the poll.

Speaking ahead of his visit, the Prime Minister argued that No was the patriotic choice for a strong Scotland in the UK, marking a contrast with the Nationalists’ vision of “narrowing down” and going separate ways forever.

“This is a decision that could break up our family of nations and rip Scotland from the rest of the UK,” Cameron said. “We must be very clear, there’s no going back from this. No re-run. This is a once-and-for-all decision. If Scotland votes Yes, the UK will split, and we will go our separate ways forever. So the vote on Thursday is not about whether Scotland is a nation. Scotland is a proud, strong, successful nation.

“The vote on Thursday is about two competing visions for Scotland’s future. The Nationalists’ vision of narrowing down, going it alone, breaking all ties with the UK. Or the patriotic vision of a strong Scottish nation allied to the rest of the United Kingdom with its own stronger Scottish Parliament at its heart and with the benefits of UK co-operation on jobs, pensions, healthcare funding, the currency, interest rates.”

He added: “It really is the best of both worlds and it’s the best way to get real change and secure a better future.”

It was a message that was echoed by his predecessor in 10 Downing Street, Labour’s Gordon Brown. Speaking at a No event in Kirkcaldy, Brown said he would yield to no-one in his pride for Scotland, but was proud to share and co-

operate as part of the UK.

Also on the campaign trail was the former Labour front-bencher John Reid who joined Jim Murphy as the shadow international development secretary ended his 100 day tour of Scotland in Glasgow.

Reid said: “I’m convinced that the Scottish people will vote to retain our culture, history and control over our own affairs – but get the stability of a bigger state around us.

“That’s what has produced all the social justice measures that have made this a decent country – the welfare state, the National Health Service, comprehensive education, minimum pensions, all delivered by British Labour governments.

“The alternative is to put all of those at risk and people, I believe, are not going to do that. I never worry about the good sense of the people of Scotland.

“They will not be bullied by Alex Salmond. The people of Scotland understand and they will come to the right decision on Thursday, I’m absolutely convinced of that.”

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