Scottish independence 'not likely' on current polls. Why?
One year ahead of the independence referendum, polls suggest Yes camp has a mountain to climb
WITH a year to go before the Scottish referendum on independence, a batch of new opinion polls suggest that the 'No' vote is well out in front.
A YouGov poll in The Times has the 'No' camp - which wants Scotland to remain part of the UK - on 52 per cent, with those in favour of separation on 32 per cent. The rest are undecided.
A Scotsman/ICM poll at the weekend had a similar result: 49 per cent against, and only 32 per cent in favour of independence. Almost one in five were undecided.
Why are voters put off? Analysing the results for the BBC, politics professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University says the results do not currently reflect how people feel about their nationality, suggesting other factors – specifically the economy - are motivating voters.
"Far more people feel strongly Scottish rather than strongly British, so clearly people's views are not just a reflection of their identity," he says. "Who wins the referendum could well turn on who wins the economic argument."
The Daily Telegraph today carries the sort of economic "scare story" that could well put Scots off voting for independence. According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR ) think-tank, Scotland could face decades of austerity and borrowing costs "that would soar above Italy and Spain's" if it goes solo, because it would have to take on a disproportionate debt pile and pay billions more interest than the UK to borrow.
What might tempt more to vote Yes? As well as more clarity on the economic front, one thing that could persuade more people to support independence, according to the Scotsman poll, is if Holyrood is not promised more power in the event of a 'No' vote.
"The battle for Scotland's future could be thrown into the balance if the pro-UK side stops short of a cast-iron commitment to hand more powers to the Scottish Parliament," the paper says.
Writing in The Times, YouGov president Peter Kellner says SNP leader Alex Salmond's biggest problem "is that Scottish voters overwhelmingly align their attitudes to independence to their party allegiance, and there are simply too few Scottish National Party supporters to deliver a 'Yes' majority".
However, the pro-independence campaign could be boosted by events south of the border. Scottish Labour voters could be persuaded to vote 'Yes' if the Tories forge ahead in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
If Cameron looks likely to remain as Prime Minister, then "Salmond could offer a 'Yes' vote as a way to escape the prospect of a right-wing government lording it over Scotland from London".
Or is it a lost cause? Despite these caveats, the 'Yes' camp would still appear to have a mountain to climb. The US polling guru Nate Silver, who famously got Barack Obama's re-election spot on, told the Scotsman there was "virtually no chance" of independence for Scotland.