(Adds BAE Systems comments)
LONDON, March 20 Around 40 percent of Scots plan
to vote for independence in this year's referendum, according to
a poll on Thursday which showed a three-point rise in support
for an end to the country's 307-year-old-union with England.
The poll, carried out by Panelbase, showed that 45 percent
of those questioned intended to vote against Scottish
independence, a decline of two points from the last equivalent
Scotland, which has a population of just over 5 million and
whose territorial waters are the source of much of the North
Sea's oil and gas, will vote on Sept. 18 on whether to leave the
Fifteen percent of the respondents said they were still
Support for Scottish independence appears to have gathered
pace over the last month, according to three different polls, as
those opposed to independence have stepped up their campaign.
Last month the British government warned that Scots could
lose the pound if they vote to leave the UK, and high-profile
business leaders including the bosses of oil giants BP
and Shell have expressed concern about Scotland going
Europe's biggest defence contractor BAE Systems on
Thursday became the latest British company to enter the debate.
"It is clear that continued union offers greater certainty
and stability for our business," BAE's chief executive Ian King
said in the FTSE 100 company's annual report.
BAE, which employs 3,600 people in Scotland, called its
interests there "significant".
"In the event that Scotland voted to become independent, we
would need to discuss the way forward with the Ministry of
Defence and UK government, and work with them to deliver the
best solution in those circumstances," King said.
BAE's activities in Scotland include building warships such
as Britain's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
For the independence poll, Panelbase surveyed 1,036 people
over the week to Mar. 14, having last asked 1,022 people the
same question in February. The question was: "How do you intend
to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an
All Scottish residents aged 16 or over can vote in the
referendum and if a majority vote in favour of the move,
Scotland will become an independent country on March 24, 2016.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Andrew Roche)