ALMOST half of the British people believe that the UK would be weakened in the event of Scottish independence, according to the first poll to illustrate the extent that Scotland is valued by its neighbours.
The proportion of Britons who think the UK would suffer from a Yes vote far outnumbers those who believe the remains of the country would be strengthened by Scotland’s departure.
An Ipsos Mori opinion poll of 2,244 adults across Britain found that 47 per cent thought the UK would be weaker without Scotland, compared with just 9 per cent who thought the UK would end up stronger.
The poll comes as the “No” campaign plans to step up the fight for the Union by “love-bombing” Scots with pleas from English celebrities, business figures and sports personalities to stay within the UK.
Better Together also intends to step up the number of Scots being contacted by ordinary people from south of the Border in an attempt to persuade voters to vote No.
The new phase in the No campaign has echoes of the 1995 Quebec referendum which saw Canadians from other parts of the country declare how much they wanted the province to stay.
A rally that saw 100,000 Canadians descend on Montreal to call for a unified Canada was seen as decisive factor in the securing of a No vote.
Although Better Together have not announced plans for a similar event, over the coming weeks, there will be more campaigning on behalf of the United Kingdom from south of the Border.
Use of an online system, titled “Blether Together”, which encourages ordinary people from south of the Border to telephone Scottish voters is to be escalated.
The poll, commissioned by the think-tank British Future, also found that 48 per cent of people in Britain believed Scotland should remain in the UK, compared with 28 per cent who thought Scotland should go for independence.
The survey was welcomed by Better Together last night. A spokesman for the No campaign said: “The referendum vote is a decision for Scots to make but this poll is clear evidence that people all across Britain acknowledge the important contribution Scotland makes to the success of our isles. The only thing putting this at risk is Alex Salmond’s obsession with independence.”
“The UK is much bigger than the sum of its individual parts. By pooling and sharing our resources across the four nations of our United Kingdom we are so much stronger and better together than we ever would be apart.”
Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, claimed that the poll suggested that most ordinary Britons did not share the view expressed by some Conservatives – that the fortunes of their party and the UK would be better without Scotland.
“My sense is that this is about a shared cultural identity that is Britishness and a lot of that is about our shared history. For example, the major Scottish contribution to the British institutions like the Army,” Katwala said.
“Some people had thought that as the referendum approaches that there would be a sense of grievance elsewhere in the UK with people saying ‘why don’t you just push off?’
“But this poll is quite clear that this just not the case. It is not the view of the political parties.
“Not even Conservative opinion is thinking about the electoral advantage that can be claimed from Scottish independence. People are thinking that independence will change who we are and not for the better.”
He added: “2014 is a big year for national identity in Britain, with Scotland’s referendum the main event. Our poll shows that most people would rather Scotland stays in the UK, and they think that’s how things will pan out in September. There’s no evidence of an English grievance either – the English think they’ll be worse off if Scotland leaves the UK.”
The Yes campaign had a different take on the poll. Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said that its findings supported his argument that Scotland could stand on its own two feet.
“The fact that the largest number of people in this survey think that the UK as a whole will be weaker after a Yes vote highlights the fact that Scotland has got what it takes to be a strong, successful country and can more than afford to be independent – something even the No campaign concedes,” Jenkins said.
“Even without the bonus of North Sea oil, Scotland’s economic output per head is virtually identical to the UK’s, our finances are stronger than the UK’s as a whole and we are ready to tackle the challenges that will make us a better, fairer country.”
He added: “But we need control over our economy to help us achieve faster and more sustainable growth that will keep us strong and allow us to build the kind of country we want according to our own needs and priorities.”
The theme of Scotland adding to the strength of the UK is today developed by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development in an article for Scotland on Sunday. Jim Murphy writes that the talent, ambition and hard work of Scots has made Britain and the world a better place. He also compares Scottish nationalism to Thatcherism claiming that the independence argument is a “binary proposition”.
“For Margaret Thatcher it was public bad, private good. For nationalists it is united bad, separated good.”
Murphy argues that the SNP’s solution for all problems, including those created by today’s Conservative government, has been independence. “This nationalist project is a single, ideological solution for a complex and ever-changing nation. As the saying goes, to a hammer all problems are nails. To a nationalist all problems are nationhood: ‘Set Scotland free’ and all policy challenges – however multi-factorial – will become solvable. No detail, no nuance, no real world complexity can be admitted.”
According to Murphy, the way to produce the policies that Scotland wants can be done by “changing our government, not our passport”.
Murphy also writes that throughout history Scots have traditionally had “questioning” mindset and that “Scotland should honour its tradition of asking the important questions of the SNP.”