A Survation poll for the Daily Mail published on Friday finds No sitting on 48%, Yes on 42% with 11% undecided. With Don’t Knows excluded No leads 53% to 47%. This represents a movement to Yes since the last Survation poll which showed a larger No lead of 57% to 43%, but is the same as the Survation poll carried out before either of the leader’s debates.
Meanwhile a poll of over-50s for Saga Group carried out by Populus, found that across the UK 73% of this age group is opposed to Scottish independence, with 11% backing a Yes vote. In Scotland, the poll found a 65% to 28% lead for a No vote, with only 7% undecided. This poll will be encouraging for the No campaign, particularly as older people are typically amongst the most likely to turn out and vote on the day.
Finally, the What Scotland Thinks website has published its latest Poll of Polls. This gives No a lead of 56% to 44%, representing a small move towards Yes since the last average 2 weeks ago which had No ahead by 57% to 43%.
Salmond bests Darling in second televised debate
The second debate between the leaders of the Yes and No campaigns provided a much needed boost to the First Minister Alex Salmond this week, as he was judged the winner of the poll by 71% of viewers in a snap poll by ICM following the contest.
Better Together leader Alistair Darling once again pursued Salmond on the issue of a currency ‘Plan B’. The Yes campaign leader had clearly come better prepared for questions on the currency on this occasion, having been stung last time on this issue, and declared that he had not one but “three Plan Bs” but said he was “seeking a mandate” from the Scottish people to pursue a currency union in negotiations.
The other key issue on which Darling sought to pin down Salmond was on oil revenues and how they could leave the Scottish economy vulnerable to shocks. He repeatedly referenced the comments of Sir Ian Wood that the Scottish Government’s forecasts for future oil receipts are overly optimistic, and noted that the shortfall in oil receipts last year was equivalent to the whole Scottish schools budget. Darling said Scotland does not need to take such a gamble on the basis of a “notoriously volatile” resource.
Salmond’s main areas of attack were on the NHS and the future of Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland. On the NHS, he said that budget cuts from Westminster could lead to future NHS cuts in Scotland and that operational control over the NHS is not enough – Scotland needs the full financial control that would come from independence. Salmond also goaded Darling on the pro-UK parties’ plans for further devolution, repeatedly asking him to name three specific job-creating powers that would be given to Holyrood. Darling was not able to give a clear answer on this, instead suggesting that jobs in Scotland, including in financial services, are best protected by remaining inside the UK with the added strength and security that brings.
Throughout the debate, and somewhat surprisingly after his success last time round, Darling seemed the more nervous of the two, with Salmond seemingly reverting to his more robust style. Many viewers complained that the debate was poorly moderated, with both men often talking over each other.
Nevertheless, Salmond did enough to secure a much needed ‘win’. The question now is whether this will be enough to inject momentum into the Yes campaign in the final three weeks of campaigning.
Business leaders weigh in to debate
This week saw the publication of two letters by business leaders, making conflicting cases in the independence debate. The first, published on Wednesday in The Scotsman, saw around 130 senior business figures call for a No vote, stating that “the business case for independence has not been made”. Signatories to the No letter included HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, as well as the chief executives of Weir Group, Aggreko and The Co-operative Bank, amongst others. They state that economic ties inside the UK “support almost one million Scottish jobs” and point to uncertainty around issues such as currency, pensions, tax, regulation and EU membership.
The following day, 200 entrepreneurs signed a letter to The Herald, in which they rebutted suggestions that the business case had not been made and argued that independence would “encourage a culture in which innovation, endeavour and enterprise are nurtured”. The signatories included Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter, Clyde Blowers chief executive Jim McColl, former RBS chairman Sir George Matthewson and former Scottish Enterprise chairman Sir Donald Mackay (full list of signatories here). The Yes backers suggest that Scottish industry is currently treated as a “cash cow” and that independence would provide more opportunities for young people “to stay and succeed [in Scotland].”
David Cameron addresses CBI in Scotland
The Prime Minister visited Scotland on Thursday evening to address a CBI dinner, at which he described the UK as one of the “oldest and most successful single markets in the world”. He said that sectors such as financial services and technology benefit from being able to trade across the UK without transaction costs. He said the UK brings opportunities that come from “being part of something bigger, a large domestic market, underpinned by a common currency, common taxes, common rules and regulations, with no borders, no transaction costs, no restrictions on the flow of goods, investment or people”.
Carmichael indicates he would join negotiating team
Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael this week indicated that, in the event of a Yes vote, he would resign from the UK Cabinet and join the team negotiating for Scotland with the UK government. He said he would find it difficult to remain in the Cabinet of what would be “at that point on its way to becoming part of a foreign country” and that, if Scotland votes yes, he would want to “get the best possible deal”. The comments will be a boost for Alex Salmond, who said in the second debate this week that he would invite people from the No campaign, including Alistair Darling, to join the ‘Team Scotland’ negotiating the terms of independence.
Brown and Darling share platform for first time in campaign
The former Prime Minister and Chancellor campaigned together for the first time this week as both appeared at a Better Together rally in Dundee. The former close friends and colleagues, who fell out during their time in Downing Street, had previously maintained their distance in the campaign. However, with polling day approaching and Brown having stepped up his involvement in the Better Together campaign in recent months, the two men put aside their differences at the joint event. Mr Brown, whose appeal is still seen as strong among traditional Scottish Labour voters, used the event to criticise the SNP’s claims on equality, arguing that their policies on areas such as corporation tax would in fact perpetuate poverty and inequality “until doomsday”.
No broadcast criticised as patronising
A referendum broadcast this week by the Better Together campaign in which an ‘undecided’ female voter is seen weighing up the risks of independence over a cup of tea in her kitchen was criticised as “patronising to women”. Female voters are a key battleground in the campaign, with polls suggesting that support for independence is lower amongst women. However the Women for Independence group suggested they had been “inundated” with calls suggesting that the advert had persuaded them to vote Yes.
There was a dreary inevitability about the latest open letter from 133 Unionist businessmen and women warning about risks and uncertainty in voting Yes
The Scottish Labour leader says all sides now agree that sovereignty lies with the Scottish people
Leading polling expert says the First Minister had a much better night, but asks if it will sway many voters
Televised political debates might not have much effect on the voting public, but their impact on those who comment on TV debates is fascinating
There are lessons to be learned from Alex Salmond’s triumph over Alastair Darling in Monday night’s debate and the first is that it’s already looking like a Pyrrhic victory
Picture: Paul and Saltire