Almost a third of Scots have signalled their backing for independence in a poll which tested the likely 2014 referendum question.
A total of 32% of those quizzed said they would vote Yes if the referendum was held today while nearly a half said they would vote No. One in seven Scots said they believe independence would make them better off financially while 38% thought it would leave them worse off. The Angus Reid Public Opinion poll of 1,003 people was published in the Scottish Mail on Sunday.
The Scottish Government last week agreed to change the question it will put to voters in the independence referendum after concerns were raised that its preferred version could be biased towards a Yes vote. First Minister Alex Salmond had proposed to ask: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" But the independent elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, said using the phrase "Do you agree" was commonly felt "to be biased towards a Yes outcome".
The Scottish Government has accepted the commission's recommendation that the question should instead be: "Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No." Subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, this is now likely to be the question put to people in the referendum which is due to take place in autumn next year.
The poll put the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" to those it questioned and asked how they would vote if the referendum were held now. Forty-seven per cent said they would vote No, 32% would vote Yes and 20% said they were undecided. One per cent indicated they would not vote.
Respondents were also asked: "Thinking of your own financial position, do you think independence will leave you better off, make no difference, or leave you worse off?" In response, 14% said they would be better off, 38% worse off, 27% said it would make no difference and 21% said they were not sure.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said: "The fact is that with the powers of an independent Scotland we will gain the tools we need to make Scotland a more prosperous, fairer country, and no amount of negativity from the No campaign will change that fact. It is becoming increasingly clear that the anti-independence side is losing the economic argument as more and more people recognise the opportunities that a Yes vote in next year's referendum offers Scotland. On the economy as on a host of other issues, it is people in Scotland who are best-placed to make decisions over the direction Scotland takes and only a Yes vote will give us the opportunity to shape policies that always put the needs of people living here first."
Yes Scotland, the pro-independence group, welcomed the results of the poll. A spokesman said: "This poll is a further indication that there is solid and sustained support for a Yes vote in 2014 and with around a fifth of voters yet to make up their minds there is everything to play for. On these figures, a swing of just over 7.5% would put 'Yes' ahead.
"It is also significant that the number of people who think they would be better off or no worse off in an independent Scotland is higher than those who think they would be worse off. We do not underestimate the hard work ahead to secure a majority Yes vote in 2014. We have to persuade those who had favoured devo-max that independence is now the best option for building the kind of Scotland they want for themselves and future generations and there is already evidence that this is happening."
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "Given the wording of the question, in many ways this is the most reliable poll yet. But it tells us the same story - that the vast majority of people in Scotland do not share Alex Salmond's desire to break up Britain."