Only days after First Minister Alex Salmond launched the Scottish government’s consultation on the independence referendum a new poll suggests that support for independence has moved ahead of the status-quo.
The Scottish sample of the poll, commissioned by the Scottish Sunday Express and carried out by Vision Critical, gives independence a 51% to 39% lead over maintaining the Union.
The survey, carried out on Thursday and Friday, uses the same wording as that announced by the Scottish Government on Wednesday: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”
Notwithstanding the Scottish subsample of 180 people, which increases the margin of error significantly, the poll will give considerable concern to Unionist who have launched a sustained attack on independence through a series of negative claims about the consequences of Scotland voting ‘Yes’.
The poll also confirms recent trends which indicate support for the Scottish Government’s vision increasing steadily.
The SNP have been swift to respond, with referendum Campaign Director and Westminster party leader Angus Robertson MP calling it a “great boost”.
Mr Robertson said that Scottish voters understood that Scotland and England would become united kingdoms with a new partnership based on equality and added:
“Support is growing for Scotland gaining the full range of job-creating powers we need to boost jobs and recovery, and becoming an equal and independent country with access to the record tax revenues being generated by Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas.
“Independence support is also rising because of the behaviour of the anti-independence parties and their negative message which is alienating more and more voters. We are also getting a good response in England because of the measured way we have articulated our case.”
The poll asked 2019 people across the UK, including 180 people in Scotland: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”.
The UK wide result showed support for independence at 39% with 44% against. This is a change from previous polls that indicated greater support for Scottish independence amongst those south of the border.
The pollster insisted that the result was valid and said they had sampled a representative cross section of society.
Unionists and poll experts have claimed the Scottish government’s question is “loaded” and there have been calls for it to be changed.
However, immediately after the question was revealed, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson welcomed the question’s clarity and fairness and said: “What the First Minister posited today is a fair and decisive legal question, which I welcome, and we now need to ensure that it is asked in a legal referendum.”
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish also defended the wording and said that Scots were mature enough to understand what they were being asked.
According to the Sunday Express, Mr McLeish, who is leading calls for Devo-Max to be included on the referendum ballot, called the latest poll a “serious warning” and added:
“After Alex Salmond’s announcement the battle is just being joined, but we should be quite clear that the launch was a very polished performance, it gave out a vision and was done with a great deal of confidence.
“No one should be in any doubt that Alex Salmond is serious about winning independence and there is no scope whatsoever for complacency on the part of the Unionist parties or those who support continuing our membership of the United Kingdom.
“I think there is a much better alternative for Scotland remaining in the Union and a great number of Scots I speak to generally want to stay within the Union but do feel that it needs a makeover and brought into the 21st century.”
Also quoted by the Scottish Sunday Express was Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University who described the survey as interesting but only “a straw in the wind”.
The polling expert said that he believed there would be no advantage in the question wording after a two and a half year campaign and added: “It may be an indication that asking that kind of question is relatively favourable to the SNP and it would be better to ask ‘Do you agree or disagree…?’
“Having said that, while it might be slightly beneficial to Alex Salmond if you pose that question now, after two and a half years of campaigning when everybody is well aware of what is at stake I don’t think that will be the case.”