THE CAMPAIGN to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom has clawed back a tiny lead over separatists less than a week before an independence referendum that is balanced on a knife edge.
A YouGov survey put Scottish support for the union at 52 per cent versus support for independence at 48 per cent, excluding those who said they did not know how they would vote.
“The ‘no’ campaign has moved back into the lead in Scotland’s referendum campaign,” YouGov president Peter Kellner said.
“This is the first time ‘no’ has gained ground since early August.”
An ICM poll showed support for the union on 51 per cent and separatists on 49 per cent once don’t knows were excluded.
That poll also showed 17 per cent of voters in the overall sample said they have yet to make up their mind.
Support for independence has surged since late August as the secessionist campaign led by Alex Salmond won over supporters of the traditionally unionist Labour party and some female voters in Scotland.
So far only one poll this year, from YouGov last weekend, has put the separatists in front.
“Although ‘no’ is back in front, the ‘yes’ campaign has held on to most of its gains since early August,” said Mr Kellner.
The erosion of the strong unionist lead has prompted investors to sell sterling, shares in companies with Scottish exposure and Government bonds on fears that the UK might break up.
In the event of a vote for independence on September 18, Britain and Scotland would have to begin work on dividing up the £1.53 trillion UK economy, North Sea oil and the national debt, while Prime Minister David Cameron would face calls to resign.
Scotland says it will use the pound after independence but London has ruled out a formal currency union, while Britain will have to decide what to do about its main nuclear submarine base on the Clyde, which the nationalists don’t want.
Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney are pulling out of G20 talks in Australia so they can be in the UK for the Scottish referendum result.
The two men had been due to attend the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Cairns on the weekend after the poll on independence.
The Chancellor said he had taken the decision not to travel to Australia because of the “economic risks” of independence.
Voting No in the referendum will bring about a “faster, better, safer change” for Scotland than voting for independence, former prime minister Gordon Brown and Labour leader Ed Miliband both claimed yesterday.
YouGov credited Mr Brown, a Scot who is the only British politician that Mr Salmond is said to fear, with winning back support for the union.
“His warnings that independence would be bad for jobs and family finances have struck home,” said Mr Kellner.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Miliband warned that Mr Salmond’s “lack of a currency plan” could lead to £21bn of spending cuts in an independent Scotland.
Meanwhile, Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed that the Queen should make a public statement in support of maintaining the UK if the Scottish independence battle remains on a knife edge next week.
Buckingham Palace has stressed that the Queen takes the view that the decision should be left to Scottish voters and that her role is “above politics”, but Mr Farage said if the UK was under threat she had a responsibility to speak out.