Shock new poll puts Salmond within reaching distance of independence victory

A new poll has put Alex Salmond within reaching distance of securing his dream of an independent Scotland, giving the No camp just a six-point lead.

The ICM poll for Scotland on Sunday, which predicted the result of the AV referendum more accurately than any other survey, saw those backing the Yes campaign up by five per cent since September and the No campaign down by the same again.

The poll put support for independence at 37% and opposition at 44%.

Pollsters stripped out the 19% of people who said they did not know how they were going to vote, resulting in support for independence at 46% against 54% planning to vote No.

When the 'don't knows' were pressed harder on their views to reveal how they were most likely to vote, the Yes camp won an extra point to 47% and the No camp lost a point to 53%.

"A potential Yes vote of 47% at this stage is an excellent place to be with eight months to go. It demonstrates very clearly that we are getting our message across and that momentum is very much on our side," Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said.

"The poll represents a very significant swing to Yes and shows that we need just over a three per cent swing to take the lead.

"It is particularly encouraging that there is a five-point increase in support from women and a four-point rise in the number of people who believe independence will be good for the economy is also a welcome shift in our favour."

Supporters of independence will be hoping to bolster support for the Yes camp ahead of the September poll in order to survive a likely decline in support in the six weeks leading up to the day of the vote.

Referendums across the world tend to see a swell in support for the status quo in the weeks immediately before the vote, as negative campaigning takes its toll.

The ICM poll will be particularly pleasing for the Scottish National party (SNP) because it suggests women are increasingly losing their aversion to the Yes campaign.

The percentage of women prepared to vote Yes grew from 28% in September to 33%.

That increase could be the result of plans to increase childcare for working mothers in the SNP's November white paper

There was also positive movement for the SNP in the crucial area of the economy, with the percentage of people who believe independence would benefit the Scottish economy up from 31% to 35%.

Those who thought independence would be bad for the economy fell from 48% to 42%.

The ICM poll is something of an outlier, however. Most surveys put support for independence at around 29%.

A recent Scottish Attitudes Survey found just nine per cent believed they would be better off under independence – a crucial factor in affecting how people will vote.