Scottish separatists close gap on pro-union rivals: poll

EDINBURGH Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:30pm EDT

The national flag of Scotland  (C) flies amongst other flags in a street in East Belfast July 5, 2014.     REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The national flag of Scotland (C) flies amongst other flags in a street in East Belfast July 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scottish separatists are closing the gap on their unionist rivals as a September independence referendum draws nearer, according to a poll on Friday.

But pollster TNS said it would still be a "major task" for them to draw level in time.

Scots will vote on Sept. 18 on whether to end the 307-year union with England, a break that would affect everything from currency arrangements to control of North Sea oil and gas.

In a poll of 995 adults, TNS found that support for the pro-independence "Yes" campaign had grown by two points to 32 percent compared with last month, while the campaign to reject independence had slipped back a point to 41 percent.

The gap is now the smallest that TNS has recorded, with the "Yes" camp more than halving their rivals' lead since it started polling last September. However, month-on-month changes have largely been within the margin of error, the pollster said.

With less than nine weeks to go before the referendum, polls have shown a diminishing number of undecided voters, although this is the first one to show the gap closing this month.

Both sides of the debate received a boost in support as undecided voters made up their minds in a poll last week by Survation. However, with recent polls by YouGov and ICM showing the "No" campaign widening its lead, experts said the secessionists needed to step up their efforts.

Tom Costley, Head of TNS Scotland, said that the pro-independence campaign would need to attract current unionist supporters in addition to swaying the undecided.

"It still remains a major task to close the gap," he said.

"That means gaining over the 'No' campaign, not just increasing their vote amongst the 'Don't knows.'"

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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