The independence referendum is “way closer to call than anyone thinks” following a new poll indicating a swing towards the Yes campaign, according to a Scottish entrepreneur.
Philanthropist Tom Hunter has launched a forum to help undecided voters make an informed choice, insisting Scotland’s future is “too important to leave to the politicians alone”.
The launch of his ScotlandSeptember18 website is accompanied by a new TNS poll showing support for independence continues to grow at 29%, up from 27% in December and 26% in November in previous TNS polls.
Support for the union has remained fairly steady at 42%, the same as in November and one point higher than in December.
Undecided voters have dropped to 29% from 33% in December indicating the “influential role” that this group will have in the referendum, according to TNS head in Scotland Tom Costley.
The latest survey of 1,054 people between January 14 and 20 is “by far the most comprehensive poll TNS have undertaken in relation to the critical issues facing voters,” Mr Costley said.
Just 14% of people said they had read any of the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, although nearly three quarters had heard of it.
Nearly two thirds say the Better Together campaign needs to be seen and heard more, with 56% saying the same about Yes Scotland.
More than two thirds think Prime Minister David Cameron should debate with First Minister Alex Salmond and only 17% believe he should not.
Around four fifths of undecided voters say they do not have enough knowledge to help them decide how to vote.
Mr Hunter said: “It is my belief that the referendum is way closer to call than anyone thinks and for that reason I believe many Scots need far more data and evidence in order to make an informed choice.
“This poll vindicates that position, with 56% of adults in Scotland saying they do not have enough knowledge about the issues related to independence to decide how to vote.
“Undoubtedly this is the biggest decision we will take in 300 years and to do so Scots need answers, not rhetoric.
“Personally I concluded I didn’t have enough information to make up my own mind, hence I’ve established this entity to attempt to throw as much evidenced-backed light on the subject as possible.”
He will not announce his own voting intention nor use his position or money to influence anyone else’s vote, he said.
Mr Costley said: “The results show that many feel they are lacking knowledge and information about the debate, particularly those who are currently undecided about how they will vote.
“Given the influential role which this group could play in the outcome of the referendum, there is a clear need for more and better information from both sides on those issues which are of most relevance to people.”
Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “We are encouraged that this poll shows that support for breaking up the UK is below 30% and support for remaining in the UK is up.
“However, as is the case with all polls, the only message we take from it is that we have to fight for every vote between now and September. Anyone who thinks that this referendum has been won already is mistaken.
“We welcome this intervention from Tom Hunter. We agree with his assessment. This week’s speech by the governor of the Bank of England demonstrated the importance of people knowing exactly what they are voting for before they are asked to take this irreversible decision.”
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “Last weekend’s ICM poll, which is the most up-to-date snapshot of public opinion, showed a potential Yes vote of 47% with eight months still to go to the referendum.
“The questions for this poll were asked before those of the ICM poll. However, even compared with the last TNS poll in December, this one shows a two-point increase in support for Yes, showing that momentum remains with us.
“The most significant figure in this poll is the large number of undecided voters at 29%. Although a very sizeable number, this is three points below what TNS found in December and we know that the more people learn about independence the more likely they are to move to Yes.”