Poll shows Scots are evenly divided over independence

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A NEW poll shows Scots are more or less evenly divided between those in favour of independence and those against.

The survey, which found 44 per cent would vote for independence in a straight Yes/No referendum, compared to 45 per cent against, is a major boost for Alex Salmond who yesterday launched the Scottish Government’s consultation on its promised referendum and unveiled the wording of the question. The poll, conducted by ICD for the New Statesman, also found 51 per cent would vote for Scotland having full control of its tax and spending – the “devo max” option – with 32 per cent against.

Mr Salmond has left open the possibility of including a devo max question in the referendum but he yesterday spelled out the key question voters will be asked: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

However, former Chancellor Alistair Darling, Labour MP for Edinburgh South West, claimed the question was “loaded” because it made no reference to Scotland leaving the UK.

Mr Darling said: “He is asking people to endorse the separation of a successful independent nation. He is not asking if you want to remain part of the United Kingdom, which I would prefer.

“If he tries to push through unfair wording, someone will go to the Court of Session. It’s typical of Salmond, who wants to call the shots on the rules, the conduct, the wording and ultimately what the result means.”

Mr Salmond announced the job of regulating the referendum would be handed to the Electoral Commission rather than the original plan to create a new body. Labour said the SNP had not given the commission a statutory obligation to test the fairness of the question and ballot paper. But Mr Salmond said: “The Electoral Commission will have a role in assessing the question.”

Welcoming the poll, Angus Robertson, director of the SNP’s referendum campaign, said: “This is an excellent poll result confirming that support for independence is running neck and neck with 44 per cent in favour to only 45 per cent against.

“This is just the beginning of the campaign and the great debate that we will have across the country.

“Results like this show that independence for Scotland is achievable and with more and more people supporting the principle that decisions about what happens in Scotland should be made by the people of Scotland it is a very welcome result.”