THE campaign for independence has suffered a setback, with support for a No vote rising after Chancellor George Osborne’s warning that Scotland would not be able to share the pound after a Yes vote, a new poll for Scotland on Sunday shows today.
The boost for the pro-UK parties comes despite the Yes campaign winning the public debate on the key issues of currency and EU membership which have dominated the campaign in recent weeks.
Support for a No vote has climbed five points to 49 per cent in the space of a month and now enjoys a 12-point gap over the pro-independence side, which is unchanged on 37 per cent. It suggests a significant number of undecideds have shifted to No.
However, most Scots believe the country will secure EU membership, despite warnings from the European Commission president that this could prove “impossible”.
And they believe an independent Scotland would be able to continue to use the pound, contrary to what Osborne insists.
The ICM poll of 1,004 Scots was carried out between 17 and 21 February.
The poll follows a warning from the Chancellor, along with his Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts, hat Scotland would not be able to share sterling in a currency union after independence.
Last night, Better Together Campaign director Blair McDougall said: “It is encouraging that undecideds, the group of Scots who are key to this referendum, are overwhelmingly moving in favour of Scotland remaining a strong and proud part of the UK. What this poll confirms is that despite the threats to default and personal attacks on those who disagree with him, people in Scotland are increasingly seeing through Alex Salmond’s false promises.
“People in Scotland now know that a vote to leave the UK is a vote to lose the strength, security and stability of the pound.” But the poll suggests almost half of Scots (47 per cent) believe Alex Salmond’s claim that the Chancellor is “bluffing” and Scotland will be able to use the pound after a Yes vote. A third (35 per cent) believe the Chancellor.
Two-thirds (63 per cent) say it would be in Scotland’s best interests to keep the pound after a Yes vote, while 12 per cent say the country should have its own separate currency.
EC president Jose Manuel Barroso sent shockwaves through the Yes camp last week when he warned that an independent Scotland would find it “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to join the European Union after a Yes vote.
But more than half of voters (57 per cent) believe Scotland would either definitely or probably be allowed to join up, while less than a quarter (24 per cent) say membership would be blocked.
A majority of Scots (54 per cent) are pro-European and want to be part of the EU after independence, but almost a third (29 per cent) say an independent Scotland should not apply to join.
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said today’s ICM poll indicates that the Yes campaign is still gaining political momentum.
He added: “The No campaign’s continued negativity, especially from its leaders in George Osborne and David Cameron, shows that when they say Scotland can’t, increasing numbers of Scots are saying, ‘Yes we can.’
“Scots are tiring of the No campaign’s inability to answer questions and put forward a package of powers for the Scottish Parliament. They are realising that only a Yes vote gives our parliament the economic strength it needs to tackle our country’s challenges.”
Less encouraging for the Yes campaign is that the key issue for most voters – the economy – provokes concern among Scots considering the independence issue, according to the findings.
Almost half of Scots (46 per cent) say a Yes vote would bad for the economy, while just 35 per cent believe it would be good.
And despite a drive to create a more equal society being at the heart of the SNP’s independence drive, including a pledge to scrap the bedroom tax, voters remain to be convinced that the situation will get any better after a Yes vote.
Just over half (51 per cent) say inequality levels will remain unchanged or even get worse after a Yes vote. Only a third say this situation is likely to improve, while 16 per cent don’t know.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This shows that people know that the only way to keep the UK pound is to keep the UK.
“People deserve to know Alex Salmond’s Plan B for currency should Scotland vote to leave the UK, but ultimately the clear benefits of home rule allow Scotland to shape our domestic agenda while sharing risks across the broad UK shoulders.”
Scots do not seem particularly concerned that the value of their pensions will suffer, despite pensions chiefs warning of additional costs. Former prime minister Gordon Brown this month insisted a Yes vote would place pensions in jeopardy, although the SNP has suggested working Scots could retire earlier after independence.
Half of Scots predict pensions will either be unaffected or higher, according to the poll, while 26 per cent say these will be lower. A further 24 per cent are unclear about the impact of the changes.
The poll shows a clear majority (60 per cent) of Scots want to see Holyrood given full power over taxation and welfare benefits if there is a No vote, with just 27 per cent opposing any further change.
A cross-party deal between all the pro-UK parties has already been ruled out before the referendum, prompting concerns that greater devolution could be abandoned if Scots vote No.
All eyes are now on the Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservative parties, who will publish their plans for more devolution in the next few months.
The Scottish Lib Dems are already proposing a federal UK, under a plan drawn up by former leader Menzies Campbell.