New poll finds huge majority want Cameron to debate Salmond


  By a Newsnet reporter
A new survey of Scottish voters has found an overwhelming majority in favour of a televised independence debate between First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron.
The poll by TNS found that almost four times as many voters (67%) were in favour of a Salmond v Cameron debate, than were against (17%).

The survey, which was comissioned on behalf of entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter, also found support for a Yes vote up two points on the last survey in December, with 29% of respondents saying they will vote Yes, support for No remained static on 42% with 29% undecided.  The support for No represents a fall of nine points since April 2013.

Significantly for both sides, the poll also found that a huge majority of undecided voters (81%) felt they currently did not yet have enough knowledge to help them decide how to vote.

Other key poll findings included:

  • Only 32% believe the Better Together Campaign have outlined the benefits of staying in the UK whilst 34% believe the Yes Campaign have outlined the benefits of Scotland becoming independent.
  • 64% say similarly the Better Together Campaign needs to be seen and heard more in the debate, with 56% saying the same about the Yes Scotland campaign.
  • When presented with the additional option of ‘Devo max’, 31% indicated that they would like to keep the current arrangement of the Scottish Parliament with its existing powers, 35% indicated they would like to see the transfer of more powers to the Scottish Parliament and 24% supported full independence.
  • 71% claimed to have heard of the recently published White Paper from the Scottish Government, though only 14% said they had read any of it.

Responding to the survey, Sir Tom Hunter said:

“This debate is too important to leave to the politicians alone.  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.”

Sir Tom has established a new website, to try to inject momentum, data and evidence into the Scottish Independence debate.  The new online entity will also regularly commission studies and make them publicly available for debate and consideration.

He added he would not use his position or money to influence a yes or no vote, but would simply put as much evidence into the public domain as possible to support informed voter choice, adding: “I will not at any time announce my voting intention either way.”

Commenting on the new survey, SNP Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“This is a welcome and positive contribution to the referendum debate by Sir Tom Hunter, which clearly indicates that people want and appreciate detailed information, which is exactly why we published the 670-page guide to an independent Scotland late last year, which voters are taking the time to read and digest.

“The gaping hole in the debate is the lack of any answers to the questions we have posed to the anti-independence campaign about what would happen to Scotland if the vote is No – in terms of more cuts to Scotland’s budget, Westminster’s dismantling of the welfare state, and the danger of being dragged out of Europe against our will.

“As a point of fact, the ICM/Scotland on Sunday poll remains the most recent one – which shows the referendum virtually neck-and-neck – as it was conducted entirely after this TNS survey.  But it is encouraging nonetheless that Yes support in the TNS poll is 41 per cent after ‘don’t knows’ are excluded – which is up on the period before the white paper publication, confirming that momentum is very much with Yes.

“The big finding in this poll is that the people of Scotland want David Cameron to debate with First Minister Alex Salmond by a majority of four-to-one.  The Prime Minister cannot possibly get away with the hypocrisy of his position, whereby his Tory-led government is leading and directing the No campaign from Westminster, yet he doesn’t have the courage to debate Alex Salmond face-to-face.”

Commenting on the poll, Tom Costley, Head of TNS in Scotland said:

“This is by far the most comprehensive poll we have undertaken in relation to the critical issues facing voters as they decide which way to vote.  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.”