Scottish independence campaign ahead in poll for first time
The YouGov/Sunday Times poll gave the “Yes” camp 51 percent support compared to the “No” camp’s 49 percent.
Although the two point lead is within the margin of error, the findings dramatically up the stakes ahead of the vote on September 18, handing valuable momentum to First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP).
They come as those fighting to keep the 300-year-old union, who include Prime Minister David Cameron, are reportedly set to announce key concessions in a bid to fight back.
The Better Together campaign, which backs Scotland staying in Britain, has been ahead in opinion polls across the board for months but its lead has narrowed in recent days.
In response to the poll lead, Alistair Darling, the leader of Better Together, said it showed the referendum “will go down to the wire”.
“We relish this battle. It is not the Battle of Britain — it is the battle for Scotland, for Scotland’s children and grandchildren and the generations to come. This is a battle we will win,” he said.
As recently as a month ago, on August 7, YouGov polling put the “No” camp on 61 percent and “Yes” on 39 percent – a gap of 22 points.
But another YouGov survey for the Times newspaper on Tuesday showed a marked narrowing of the gap, with 47 percent saying they would vote “Yes” and 53 percent “No”.
Any vote for Scotland to leave Britain would be a landmark event and could raise a string of questions about Britain’s standing in the international community.
Scotland represents one-third of Britain’s landmass and is home to Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, which the SNP has said must be out of Scotland by 2020 in the event of independence.
In response to the narrowing polls, the “No” campaign is reportedly set to announce measures to devolve more powers to Scotland.
The Observer newspaper reported that an announcement was expected within days on plans to let Scots decide on a federalised future for their country after intensive cross-party talks.
“Watch this space. You can expect something in the next few days,” it quoted an unnamed senior government minister close to the “No” campaign as saying.