YouGov poll puts referendum on a knife edge
A YouGov poll this week which found support for a Yes vote at 47% after undecideds were stripped out has ignited the referendum campaign and given supporters of independence genuine hope that victory could be achieved. While this is not the first poll to find a 53-47 split, it has sparked particular interest as YouGov has traditionally found lower support for Yes in its polls and, as little as a month ago, gave No a lead of 61-39.
With undecided voters included the YouGov poll found 42% planning to vote Yes, 48% No, 8% Don’t Know and 2% not planning to vote.
Of particular concern for the No campaign was the finding that 28% of those who voted Labour at the last Scottish Parliament elections are
planning to vote Yes. Traditional Labour voters will be a key battleground in the final two weeks of campaigning and it is for this reason that Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and other leading Labour figures are expected to be increasingly visible in the final period of campaigning.
Prime Minister and First Minister vow to stay put
Both David Cameron and Alex Salmond this week pledged not to resign in the event that the referendum does not go their way.
Cameron said “emphatically” that he would not do so, stating: “We shouldn’t try and tie up in this vote the future of Alex Salmond or me.” The Prime Minister said the referendum is “purely and simply about Scotland and its place in the United Kingdom”.
Alex Salmond likewise said that he has no plans to hand over to his deputy Nicola Sturgeon in the event of a No vote. Speaking at an event to mark 10 years since he and Sturgeon took on the SNP leadership roles the First Minister said that he would “continue to serve out the mandate” he has been given. He added that he does not think there is “any reason to suspect that we will be in that position in two weeks’ time” as he expects to see “a substantial and decisive movement with Yes”.
Brown and Miliband to lead No rally
Labour leader Ed Miliband and his predecessor Gordon Brown will lead a rally for the United Kingdom in Glasgow next Friday, alongside Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.
With polling suggesting that a growing number of traditional Labour voters are moving to support independence, the party is stepping up its efforts to shore up support for a No vote, particularly in central belt areas such as Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Former Prime Minister Brown will undertake a series of events in the run up to the vote, while senior UK Labour figures such as Ed Balls and John Prescott are also expected to hit the campaign trail.
On a visit to Scotland this week, Miliband acknowledged that many Labour supporters are tempted to vote Yes by the prospect of freeing Scotland of Conservative governments in Westminster. However he described the Tories as “defecting, divided and downhearted” and said they are heading for defeat in 2015. Miliband said that a Labour government will bring real change to Scotland and argued that a No vote is “incredibly important for building social justice in Scotland”.
Lloyds of London chairman backs No vote
John Nelson, the chairman of Lloyds of London, has said that the insurance market would be “best served” by a vote to preserve the United Kingdom. In a speech in the City this week Mr Nelson said he would be “extremely sad” to see Scotland vote to leave the UK, adding: “It is in the interests of the entire Scottish population, and the wider British population, all 65m of us who inhabit these extraordinary islands, that the union stays together”.
He similarly expressed support for the UK’s continued membership of the European Union and said that Scotland staying in the UK, and the UK staying in the EU, would be best for the “prosperity of the UK, the City of London and Lloyd’s”.
Nelson’s remarks were the latest in a series of recent interventions suggesting that leaders in the financial services leaders are becoming more willing to speak out as the vote draws nearer and the polls grow tighter.
Also this week, the retail investment management group Hargreaves Lansdown said that it has received an increased volume of calls from clients concerned about the potential impact of independence on their personal finances. Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves said: “Most clients who have contacted us have simply been looking for reassurance that nothing catastrophic will occur in the immediate aftermath of a Yes vote.”
Goldman Sachs economist expresses fears over currency
A senior economist at Goldman Sachs, Kevin Daly, this week issued a note expressing fears over a possible Eurozone style currency crisis in the event of a Yes vote. He warned of a possible run on sterling and the sell-off of Scottish assets. Mr Daly wrote:
“The most important specific risk, in our view, is that the uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland would be able to retain sterling as its currency could result in an EMU-style currency crisis within the UK. In our view, the threat to disband the sterling monetary union with Scotland is credible.”
The warnings came as the pound hit a seven month low this week, reflecting concern amongst investors that a Yes vote in two weeks’ time is now a genuine possibility. David Bloom, global head of currency research at HSBC, said: “What’s really happened with sterling is that it’s suddenly smelt the coffee…The YouGov poll came out and the market said: ‘We’ve priced nothing in’.”
RMT union backs Yes vote
The rail workers union RMT this week became the first major industrial trade union in Scotland to back a Yes vote in the referendum. The union held a ballot of members this week which saw independence endorsed by 1,051 votes to 968 votes. 365 voting members were undecided. This represented a turnout of around 25% of RMT’s Scottish membership of around 9,000.
The union, which is not affiliated to the Labour party, joins the Prison Officers Association Scotland in backing independence, while Labour affiliates the GMB, Aslef and Community are backing a No vote. Unite and Unison have not declared a position.
Olli Rehn casts doubt on EU plans
The former EU Commissioner Olli Rehn has cast doubt on the ability of an independent Scotland to join the European Union without either a formal currency union or its own central bank. Mr Rehn’s comments are a blow to the ‘sterlingisation’ option – whereby Scotland could continue to use the pound without a formal currency union – which increasingly looks like the Scottish Government’s preferred ‘Plan B’. In a letter to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, Rehn wrote:
“As to the question of whether ‘sterlingisation’ were compatible with EU membership, the answer is that this simply would not be possible, since that would obviously imply a situation where the candidate country concerned would not have a monetary authority of its one, and thus no necessary instruments for EMU”.
Rehn is a former holder of both the enlargement and economic affairs portfolios in the European Commission. First Minister Alex Salmond dismissed his remarks, stating that there have been “a whole range of arguments about what is and isn’t required for EU membership. None of them have stood up to any examination.”
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