Economy matters most in Scottish independence vote: poll

LONDON Sun Feb 9, 2014 6:31am EST

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond smiles as he attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in Scotland January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond smiles as he attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in Scotland January 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Russell Cheyne

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LONDON (Reuters) - The economy is the most important issue to Scottish voters ahead of a referendum for independence later this year, according to a poll published on Sunday.

Scots will decide on September 18 whether their nation, which has a population of just over 5 million and is a source of North Sea oil, should end its 307-year-old union with England and leave the United Kingdom.

The poll, carried out in January by TNS in more than 1,000 face-to-face interviews, found voters ranked the economy above other issues including pensions, welfare, currency, and immigration when asked what mattered most to them.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond, who is heading the drive for Scotland to split from Britain, has argued Scots will be better off in charge of their own finances and insists Scotland has a right to its share of British assets.

That would mean it using the pound and central bank, the Bank of England, as the lender of last resort - an arrangement the British government has given no guarantee of accepting.

Salmond has warned that without a share of UK assets, an independent Scotland could walk away from its share of UK liabilities such as its 1.2 trillion pounds of government debt.

A separate survey by Panelbase for the Sunday Times newspaper found 51 percent of respondents believed independence would mean higher tax bills to fund public services, with 26 percent expecting there would be no change.

Only 17 percent were in favour of paying more for better public services, however.

On Friday Prime Minister David Cameron made an emotional appeal for Scotland to remain part of the UK, warning Scots a vote for independence would undermine Britain's global clout and imperil its financial and political stability.

Panelbase found that among those who had a view on independence, 43 percent were in favour and 57 percent were against.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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