This week in Scotland: Love-bombing and polling

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It’s getting very close
With two weeks to go the latest YouGov poll has set unionist nerves on edge. Commissioned on behalf of the Times newspaper, the poll records support for independence at an all-time YouGov high of 47% when undecideds are removed.

Conducted on the back of the second TV debate between Darling and Salmond, the poll indicates that the No lead has been cut from 22 points at the beginning of August to just 6 points – 57% for No and 43% Yes in mid-August and 61% No and 39% Yes at the beginning of August.

Worryingly for the unionists is the increase in support for independence from the No side itself, as Labour voters appear to be being swayed by the Yes camp. A recent push on the NHS and social justice issues seems to have had an effect. It is of no surprise, therefore, to see both camps pushing their social justice credentials this week as they look to focus on Labour heavy areas.

When looking at the data provided by YouGov, there are also worrying trends for unionists. Undecideds are breaking in favour of independence at a rate of 2:1 and the pro-independence camp is ahead across all of the demographics with the exception of the 60+ group.

Combined with the findings of last week’s Daily Mail/Survation poll, which also showed a six point gap, it is clear that ‘Yes’ has the momentum heading into the final two weeks. There had been rumours that Yes Scotland would produce a poll showing a Yes lead for an edition of the Daily Record they were guest editing today, but it did not appear.

Looking ahead, YouGov will be publishing their next poll in the Sunday Times, and there is an expectation that the Sunday Herald will also have new polling data. Next week will bring the final Survation poll from the Daily Record, and TNS, the only company which conducts door to door interviews, will publish their latest report.

The markets begin to get jittery?
On the back of the YouGov poll suggesting that the Yes campaign was in “touching distance of victory” the Pound fell across international markets.

Sterling was at a three year low on Tuesday, down 0.5% against the Dollar and down 0.4% against the Euro, which has been under pressure from the prospect of further action from the European Central Bank to encourage growth/head off deflation.

The issue of what currency an independent Scotland would have has been central to the debate in recent months with nationalists insisting that an independent Scotland would continue to use the Pound post independence. This uncertainty is manifesting itself in the markets as investors are increasingly seeking to protect their investments.

Gloomy predictions for an iScotland
Goldman Sachs and Berenbeg, a German-based multinational bank have both published reports that claim a ‘Yes’ vote would force Scotland into a new wave of austerity, increases to mortgage costs and possibly a Eurozone-style currency crisis.

Goldman warned that an independent Scotland would require a “significant budget adjustment” to make its finance “sustainable.” This essentially means cuts to public services and/or increased taxes.

The financial giant goes on to state that under the Barnett formula Scotland currently receives much higher levels of public spending from the UK Government. An independent Scotland would lose this funding at a time when it is increasingly beneficial to have especially when Scotland’s ageing population is considered.

In a similar analysis, Professor Iain McLean of Oxford University has predicted that the average Scots household would be £480 worse off under independence due primarily to decreasing oil revenues. This is distinctly different to the SNP’s predicted “independence bonus” of £1,000 a year.

Finally, David Cameron declared pro-independence campaigners threats to refuse to accept a share of the UK’s national debt as “chilling.” This comes on the back of continued threats from nationalists that if rUK seizes all of the UK’s assets in relation to the currency, then it (rUK) must then take all of its liabilities. This could mean Scotland refusing to take its estimated £100bn share of the UK debt.

Love-bombing Labour voters
Labour voters have always held the keys to the referendum. Convince the majority to support your cause and your cause should prevail. Thus, with swings in the polls on the back of social justice messaging, Labour voters can be expected to be love bombed over the next fortnight. One only has to pick up today’s Daily Record – guest edited by Yes Scotland – to see this tactic in action.

In the last couple of weeks, the Yes camp has played on Labour voters fears of more ‘Tory rule’ and the perceived privatisation of the NHS in England to dramatic effect. The message has essentially boiled down to only independence can protect Scotland from governments “it didn’t elect” – i.e. Tory.

To counter this, Ed Miliband was in Scotland this week claiming that the only way to deliver true social justice is to “vote ‘No’ in the referendum because a Labour government is on the way, a Labour government with genuine proposals for social justice.” Gordon Brown is also delivering speeches over the next couple of days tackling this issue.

Labour are pointing to promises that with a UK Labour Government they are committed to delivering a fairer tax system, reintroducing both the 10p and 50p tax rates, freezing energy bills, raising the minimum wage and boosting the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Given current UK polling, a Miliband led government is a distinct possibility.

In contrast they are highlighting that the SNP want to cut corporation tax, continue the Tories austerity project and have failed to commit to Labour promises on freezing energy bills or reintroducing the 50p top rate of tax.

RMT for Yes
The RMT Union has become the first major trade union organisation to publically support independence. In a poll of its members, the RMT voted in favour of independence by a margin of 1,051 to 968 with 365 abstentions. The RMT, which is the largest of Scotland’s rail unions and also represents many offshore workers, was disaffiliated from Labour in 2004.

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