Saturday 24 March 2018

Yes vote closer than ever, says Salmond in Scottish poll race

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, and driving force behind the pro-independence movement. PA
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, and driving force behind the pro-independence movement. PA

Dean Gray

THE LEADER of Scotland's push for independence, Alex Salmond, yesterday predicted that a yes vote is closer than ever.

He was speaking after the latest opinion poll showed that the No vote's lead has collapsed to just six points only 16 days ahead of the referendum.

The YouGov poll shows Mr Salmond's campaign for independence has narrowed the previously substantial No lead, with 47pc now claiming they will vote for independence against 53pc opposed to it.

In comparison, the No campaign was leading by 14 points in mid-August and by 17 points a month prior to that in June.

The biggest change in the latest poll has come from Labour voters, with 30pc now backing the Yes vote compared to 18pc just one month ago.

Liberal Democrat voters have also shifted, with twice as many (24pc) saying they will vote for independence - although their percentage of the vote is significantly smaller.

Yes Scotland's Chief Executive Blair Jenkins welcomed the news: "This breakthrough poll shows that Yes has the big momentum - it's an all-time high for Yes support in a YouGov survey so far".

He also claimed that the level of engagement in the referendum campaign marked a turning point.

Mr Salmond, who is also Scotland's First Minister, told the BBC that a narrowing of the gap between the Yes and No campaigns could not be ignored.

He said people who had never engaged with politics were becoming involved, calling it "a democratic sensation".

The UK government said it would continue to make the "strong, clear argument" that Scotland could have "the best of both worlds" in the UK.

On 18 September, voters in Scotland will be asked the referendum question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Speaking to the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, Mr Salmond said: "Independence is obviously closer than it's ever been but it's not about the opinion polls.

"What's happening is in the streets, the communities, the church halls, the village halls around Scotland."

Polling expert professor John Curtice, who has been following the campaigns and the polls ahead of Scotland's referendum, yesterday said on the BBC that: "We've so far had 81 opinion polls that have posed the question, "should Scotland be an independent country", since the question that's to appear on the ballot paper was settled back in February of last year.

"Of those polls, 80 have put the 'No' side ahead, and that's the reason why the 'No' side, according to the bookies, are the odds-on favourites to win.

"That said, however, the polls have consistently disagreed with each other about how far the 'No' side are ahead, and some have said it's around 45, 46, 47pc for the "Yes" side.


"Other polls have tended to suggest it's around 40, 41, 42pc for 'Yes', and looks as though it's all over. The second health warning is that the more recent polls over the last two or three weeks or so have been suggesting that perhaps the 'Yes' side have been making further progress. Certainly, 'No' are still ahead, but it looks as though the 'Yes' side may have gained some momentum in the last two or three weeks.

"I think that's undoubtedly the reason why, in this last fortnight, both sides are going to fight this campaign very hard indeed - because the 'No' side now can't be sure of winning and the 'Yes'" side still have hope that they can pull it off."

Pro-campaigners have welcomed comments by designer Vivienne Westwood that an independent Scotland could be "a model to us all".

Westwood (73) said an independent Scotland could be "a model to us all ... if it could become a people-friendly society".

She was speaking after being inducted into the Scottish fashion hall of fame for her contribution to the industry.

Pound plunges over poll results. Business: Page 32

Irish Independent

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