ALMOST two fifths of people in Scotland believe the country will be left “badly divided” after the independence referendum, according to the first poll to measure the effect the constitutional debate is having on Scottish society.
In the ICM poll, conducted for Scotland on Sunday, 38 per cent of those surveyed thought that divisions would remain whatever the outcome of the September 18 poll, compared with 36 per cent who disagreed when asked if Scotland would be left “badly divided”.
The poll also looked at how the constitutional issue was affecting people’s relationships with their families and friends.
It found that 42 per cent of families are split over independence, while one fifth of those questioned (21 per cent) admitted that discussions with family and friends about the forthcoming referendum had degenerated into rows.
The survey of 1,003 people across Scotland also revealed that the gap between Yes and No has tightened, with support for independence now standing at 36 per cent, up two percentage points on an equivalent poll last month.
The No vote fell three percentage points to 43 per cent when compared with May’s ICM poll. The proportion of undecided voters went up one point to 21 per cent.
When undecided voters were excluded from the calculation, backing for Alex Salmond’s drive for independence stood at 45 per cent, an increase of three percentage points on last month.
Support for a No vote was down three points to 55 per cent.
This is the same split between Yes and No as ICM recorded in a poll for Scotland on Sunday back in March.
The rise in Yes support was particularly evident among women, a trend which was welcomed by Yes campaigners given that women have traditionally been far more sceptical about independence than men.
According to the survey conducted on 9-12 June, female support for Yes has increased by five percentage points to 32 per cent since last month.
The rising female Yes support was more than matched by the falling support for No among women. Female support for remaining in the United Kingdom dropped by six percentage points to 42 per cent.
Last night the Better Together campaign claimed it came as “little surprise” to learn that people believed the nation would be badly divided given the abuse directed last week at the Harry Potter author JK Rowling and Clare Lally, the mother of a disabled child, after they put forward arguments for a No vote.
Rowling was subjected to abuse from independence supporters after she donated £1 million to Better Together and wrote a blog explaining why she was against independence.
Lally found herself at the centre of a foul-mouthed cyberstorm after she appeared at a Better Together rally.
The attacks on Lally came around the same time that Salmond’s special adviser, Campbell Gunn, e-mailed a newspaper to point out that the 33-year-old was a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet. Gunn’s e-mail also wrongly stated that she was the daughter-in-law of the former Labour lord provost of Glasgow Pat Lally, a false claim that was also made on the internet by nationalist bloggers.
Salmond has said that Gunn made a “mistake” when he claimed the mother-of-two and the former lord provost were related. The First Minister also admitted that Gunn was guilty of “misjudgment” when he sent the e-mail pointing out Lally’s connections.
Salmond, however, has rejected calls for Gunn’s dismissal, arguing that his special adviser has issued an unreserved apology for his behaviour.
The Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “This is another poll showing our campaign in the lead and support for independence lower than at the start of the year.
“After the week of abuse directed at two inspirational women who happen to be voting No, it’s little surprise that Scots fear a divided nation.
“Our campaign offers people in Scotland something we can all unite around. We want Scotland to have the best of both worlds – an even stronger Scottish Parliament, with more powers for Scotland, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK.
“That’s why we will be working flat out as a campaign to make sure Scots say ‘no thanks’ to separation in September.”
Yes Scotland said the move towards an independence vote was encouraging. Yes Scotland’s chief executive Blair Jenkins said his campaign was committed to a “respectful” debate and added that there was agreement across the political divide to unite Scotland after the vote.
Jenkins said: “This is a very encouraging poll – the third poll in recent days to record a significant increase in support for Yes, which puts us in touching distance of success in September. It shows that the relentless negativity of the No side isn’t working, and is being rejected by the people of Scotland.
“The Yes campaign will continue to set out our positive vision of a better future – where the great wealth of Scotland works for all the people – and we are confident that message of hope and aspiration will continue to gain ground and deliver a Yes vote on 18 September.
“The poll also shows a high level of public engagement with the referendum, and we are committed to a positive, quality, respectful debate. Sixty-two per cent of people disagree with the idea of division or have no view – similar findings could, of course, be generated by an ordinary election campaign – and there is a consensus and determination right across the spectrum that we will come together as Scotland united on 19 September.”