Osborne challenged on secret indy-poll as No campaign falters


  By a Newsnet reporter

Ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s scheduled appearance before the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster today, the SNP are demanding that he agrees to publish the publicly-funded polling research they commissioned from Ipsos/MORI on the independence referendum.

Mr Osborne is scheduled to appear in front of the Scottish Affairs Committee to discuss the issue of a currency agreement with a newly independent Scotland.  The appearance though, in front of the all-Unionist committee, is not expected to result in surprises from Mr Osborne who is expected to repeat his opposition to a currency union.

The Chancellor’s appearance comes as the No campaign falls into more disarray with reports that its leader Alistair Darling has been sidelined just four months from polling day – with Douglas Alexander effectively replacing Mr Darling.  This move comes despite growing criticism and alarm within Labour over Alexander’s role in their struggling 2015 Westminster election campaign, as opinion polls now put the Tories ahead with a year to go to the election.

Mr Osborne is also facing calls to publish findings contained in an alleged secret poll which it is being said the UK Government commissioned at a cost of £46,000.  The taxpayer funded survey, carried out by Ipsos Mori, is rumoured to show a surge in support for independence.

It has also emerged that a PR company paid £30,000 by the UK Government has links to the official No campaign.  Engine PR’s director Craig Harrow is also on the board of Better Together.

Stewart Hosie MP, SNP Westminster Treasury spokesperson commented :

“George Osborne must agree to publish this secret poll – which has been paid for by the taxpayer. We know the coalition have spent an eye watering £46,500 of public money on voting intentions in the referendum, and have now locked it up in a vault in Whitehall. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister refused to answer our demand to publish – today it is the Chancellor’s opportunity to come clean.

“The poll findings may have added to the panic in the No campaign, which is turning into a shambles as Alistair Darling is sidelined because the Tories in charge of the campaign think he is ‘lacklustre’.

“This secret poll was funded by public money and the Chancellor keeps preaching about the need for fiscal responsibility and austerity. Most people in Scotland will want to hear how this public expense can be justified – and why it is being kept secret.

“Does the research suggest what we all know – that the constant stream of negativity and scaremongering by No is turning the people of  Scotland off and boosting the Yes vote – and that sending a succession of increasingly bewildered Tory ministers on day trips north of the Border to tell Scots what we can’t do is backfiring?

“The Chancellor has an opportunity at the Scottish Affairs Committee to give a clear pledge that this secret research will be published in full.  It is unacceptable to try to keep it buried because of bad news for the faltering and now rudderless No campaign.”

A new TNS Scotland poll published today by the Herald newspaper shows the gap between Yes and No is 12 points, the same as the last survey carried out by the company.

However the poll also found that the No campaign was believed to be significantly more negative than its Yes counterpart.

According to the Herald, 53% believed the Better Together campaign had been negative with 15% disagreeing, while 29% felt the Yes Scotland campaign had been negative with 37% disagreeing.