One month to go: Poll bump gives Salmond hope for Scottish independence
Alex Salmond went into the last month of campaigning for the Scottish independence referendum with a spring in his step this morning, after two polls showed a boost in support for the 'Yes' camp.
The latest ICM poll for the Scotsman put support for 'Yes' up four on 38% and 'No' up two on 47%, with the number of undecideds down to 14%.
When the 'don't knows' were stripped out it gave the 'No' camp a lead of ten points, by 55% to 45%.
A Panelbase survey for Yes Scotland put support for independence at 42% and support for the union at 46%, with 12% undecided.
Once the 'don't knows' were excluded that amounted to a 'No' lead of 52% to 48% – half the lead from Panelbase's survey at the end of July.
Worryingly for the Better Together campaign, the ICM poll found just 52% of people thought Salmond's currency plans for an independent Scotkland were "unconvincing", leaving 45% saying they felt Scotland would still be able to use the pound as it does now, despite the insistence of the three main Westminster parties that they will not agree to currency union.
"The poll shows the bullying of the Westminster parties continues to backfire. The 'No' campaign's supposed trump card has indeed turned out to be a bluff," deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
There were also signs that Salmond's decision to focus on the effects of staying in the union on Scotland's NHS may be a wise tactical decision.
Asked about the prospect of a knock-on effect of NHS privatisation north of the border, 57% said it would be likely to make them vote 'Yes' while 43% said it was unlikely.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander criticised Salmond for whipping up hysteria around the NHS, especially give Scotland has total control of its health budget.
"These ever more desperate claims seem motivated more by saving their campaign than saving the NHS," he said.
"All of us know the NHS is devolved in Scotland and is the responsibility of the Scottish government."
He added: "The remarkable thing over the last two years of campaigning has been how little public opinion has changed.
"We started the campaign speaking for the majority of Scots and now, as we enter the final month, we still speak for that majority.
"Not a single independently commissioned poll has ever shown Yes in the lead."
Writing on the What Scotland Thinks website, polling expert Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said the polls did not necessarily represent a swing of momentum behind the 'Yes' camp.
"The fact that both Panelbase's and ICM's poll strongly suggest that the Yes vote has not declined in the wake of the leaders' debate means that a pro-independence campaign that had appeared to be at risk of being written off by the media will now enter the last month of campaigning with renewed heart – and that interest in and speculation about the outcome of the referendum will remain at fever pitch," he said.
Speaking during a radio phone-in broadcast on Forth 2 and Clyde 2 yesterday, Salmond insisted that he could not reveal his plans for a Plan B for currency union because to do so would damage his negotiating position.
"There will be trade unionists and business people listening to this programme," he said.
"We would go into a period of negotiation and I have never known any trade unionist going into a period of negotiation and say 'this is what we want but incidentally I'll tell you what we'd settle for.' That way you'll never get the best option."
Salmond said the idea Scotland could be prevented from using sterling was a "big lie", which suggests he plans to adopt it unilaterally outside of a currency union, in the same way countries like Panama use the dollar.
Such a move would be hugely dangerous for the Scottish economy, because it would tie it into a currency arrangement over which it has no control and could trigger a flight of money from the country, as financial services panic at the idea that there is no lender of last resort.
It could also require large spending cuts to ensure there is a reserve of sterling and enough money in circulation.
Salmond has threatened to renege on Scotland's share of the UK's debt if there's no currency union, but that option also holds potentially severe reprecussions. International money markets and the EU could punish Scotland severely for such a decision.
The ICM poll showed two-thirds of Scots did not believe stark warnings from Westminster and EU leaders that Scotland would struggle to be accepted into the EU.
Just 15% thought Scotland would find itself blocked from entering the EU.
The poll revealed a slight increase in euroscpetic views norther of the border, with 31% saying Scotland should not join the EU – an increase of two per cent on the previous ICM poll. Half the respondents said Scotland should enter the EU, a decline of four per cent.
The first minister will take the Scottish Cabinet to Arbroath today, where he will use the symbolic venue to issue a 'declaration of opportunity'.
"Those of us lucky enough to cast our votes on that day are truly a privileged generation: perhaps the most privileged in this nation's history," he will say.
"The opportunity we have isn't unique, but it is very precious. We have the chance to take power out of the hands of the Westminster elite and into the hands of the people of Scotland."
Salmond will view a copy of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, a statement by Scots nobles of their freedom from English rule, during a visit to the town's abbey.
Meanwhile, Downing Street confirmed David Cameron would stay away from Scotland on the day of the vote and leave it to the the Better Together campaign.
Polls suggest Cameron is a toxic influence on the pro-union campaign, with voters more likely to back independence if they think he will win the general election.