Latest referendum poll has campaigns neck and neck

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined Scottish Labour Leader Johan Lamont at Loanhead Miners Club on the Scottish Independence Referendum Campaign. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined Scottish Labour Leader Johan Lamont at Loanhead Miners Club on the Scottish Independence Referendum Campaign. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
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A NEW poll out today confirms that the referendum is too close to call, with the Yes and No camps neck and neck.

The TNS survey put both sides on 41 per cent among those definitely going to vote. That means backing for Yes is up from 38 per cent last month while support for No is down from 46 per cent.

The poll also found the only group where No has a strong majority is among Scots aged 55 and over above, with 49 per cent wanting Scotland to stay in the UK compared to the 31 per cent who back independence.

It prompted a new drive by the Yes campaign to win over the older vote.

Alex Salmond said: “This is a great excuse to pop round for Sunday lunch at your gran’s.”

The poll came as Douglas Alexander MP said new powers will offer Scotland “progress and momentum” without the risks and uncertainties of separation if it rejects independence.

The leaders of Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Scotland will today unveil a detailed timetable setting out how quickly new powers could be transferred to Holyrood if the No camp wins next week’s referendum.

The pro-union Better Together campaign has denied the move is a panic measure to shore up support, although it increasingly appears as if the referendum contest is too close to call.

This morning Mr Alexander said the pro-union parties would offer “significant devolution” of income tax and taxation powers, welfare and further democratic powers.

He said: “Whether it is powers for rural Scotland, whether it’s democratic powers, whether it’s taxation powers, whether it’s welfare powers, people can now go to the polls next week knowing that we can have change, a sense of progress and momentum for Scotland, but without all of the risk and uncertainties.

“I think as we move towards the decision next week people can know we can make progress, we can protect our hospitals, protect our doctors but not have all the risks and uncertainties of separation.”

Mr Alexander, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, added: “Most people are wrestling with this dilemma: how can I make progress for Scotland, how can we give pride and patriotism expression in the vote that we cast next week, but not walk away from the strength, stability and security of the United Kingdom?

“I think the timetable for action we’re setting out today will give people confidence that they can vote No and get the best of both worlds, more powers here in Scotland but all of the strength, stability and security of being part of the United Kingdom family. It’s what most of us want here in Scotland. That’s what we’re offering.”

However, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said only independence would give Scotland the opportunity to make its own decisions.

He said: “The notion that the Westminster elite can now decide what’s appropriate to give Scotland in the way of powers I think demonstrates how out of touch they are with the debate in Scotland.

“The debate in Scotland is about how we get the changes we wish to make in our society and where those decisions are taken, and for the kind of society we want, the economic growth we want, a fairer society, we know those decisions have to be made in Scotland.

“We know the only way we get to do what we want to do, protect what we care about, is with the full powers of an independent country.”

With just over a week until the September 18 referendum, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has already dismissed the timetable for more powers from the Westminster parties as a “bribe” that has been made “because the Yes side is winning on the ground”.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown last night set out his proposed schedule for new powers to be transferred north, saying work on it would start immediately after the referendum.

He declared a No vote next week would be the “starting gun for action”.

Mr Brown envisions a “command paper” to be published by the present UK Government setting out all the proposals for change no later than the end of October.

A white paper would be drawn up in November after a period of consultation, with draft clauses for legislation expected in January.

As the pro-union parties reveal more details of further devolution, Mr Salmond will be urging Scots to reject that and instead vote for independence as he campaigns in Edinburgh.

He will insist that an independent Scotland will continue to be a member of the European Union as he meets supporters from other countries who will declare “we are all European citizens”.