With just five months to go until Scotland goes to the polls in the referendum on independence, support for the Yes campaign has reportedly closed the gap on unionists and could have taken the lead “by July”.
According to an authoritative new survey, 47 per cent of Scots are now in favour of breaking away from the UK – just six points behind those who would vote to remain.
The huge cut in the No campaign’s lead, down from more than 24 points last year, comes after a series of gaffes from its cross-party leadership, the Sunday Times reported.
The results came from polling company Panelbase, which was the first to record a spike in support for the SNP before Alex Salmond won the 2011 Scottish election.
Some nationalists have reportedly claimed that, with the Yes campaign gaining momentum so rapidly in the build-up to September’s vote, the opinion poll lead could be reversed as early as July.
Last week the Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, warned reluctant unionists to take action before it is “too late”, saying: “Everybody needs to know that this is a serious contest, and one which it is not impossible that the nationalists could win.”
Yet his message was overshadowed by the scandal of an unnamed coalition minister saying an independent Scotland could be allowed to keep the pound – despite Chancellor George Osborne’s repeated claims to the contrary.
Yesterday, David Cameron used the platform of the Conservative Party spring forum to urge people in Scotland to vote against independence.
He described the country's first minister Alex Salmond as “a man without a plan”.
“Once he wanted the euro, now he wants the pound,” the Prime Minister said. “Next he claims he'd be canny with Scotland's money then he splashes £2bn on spending promises without a clue about how he'd pay for them.”
Mr Cameron also responded to criticism that the pro-union Better Together campaign in the Scottish referendum has been too negative. He pledged to “set out our positive vision for the future of the UK”.
Meanwhile, Mr Salmond was expected to mock the UK's record on education and life expectancy as he presses the case for independence in New York during Scotland Week, which celebrates the country's culture in events across North America.