The level of support for independence has been thrown into confusion with the emergence of a poll which puts the Yes campaign marginally ahead.
A new survey carried out by Panelbase puts support for Yes on 44 per cent with support for No one point behind at 43 per cent, with 13 per cent yet to decide. However the poll is at odds with a YouGov poll released this weekend which claimed support for a No vote was over twice that of Yes.
The YouGov survey, carried out on behalf of the so called DevoPlus campaign group, put support for those opposed to independence at 59 per cent against 29 per cent for Yes.
That apparent lead for the No campaign was seized on by pro-Union commentators who claimed it showed the Yes campaign struggling. However today’s new survey has witnessed counter claims from those in favour of independence who are insisting that momentum is very much with the Yes campaign.
In support of their claims, the SNP has pointed out that Panelbase was the first polling organisation to show the SNP in the lead during the 2011 Holyrood election campaign. Alex Salmond’s party eventually recorded an historic majority despite having having been well behind Iain Gray’s Labour party for several months leading up to May 2011.
This most recent Panelbase poll was commissioned by the Scottish National Party. It was sampled between 23-28 August, among 1,043 people aged 18 and over in Scotland.
It is the first poll to indicate Yes ahead since the question which will be asked in the referendum was finalised last year. The last poll to show a Yes lead was a TNS poll in the Herald newspaper in August 2011, which showed Yes at 39 per cent and No at 38 per cent, with Don't Know at 23 per cent.
According to this latest survey, support for a Yes vote has increased by 7 points since the last Panelbase poll in July. Support for No has fallen by 3 points.
A detailed breakdown of the poll shows that 24 per cent of people who voted Labour in the Scottish Parliament constituency vote in 2011 intend to vote Yes in 2014. It also reveals that among women aged 35-54, Yes leads No by 45 per cent to 41 per cent.
Responses to the survey suggest that 93 per cent of Yes supporters are very likely to vote in the referendum, compared to 88 per cent of No supporters.
The poll also asks two key questions which appear to point to the strength and potential of the Yes vote.
In response to whether people trust the Scottish Government or the UK Government to take decisions for Scotland, 60 per cent trust Holyrood compared to just 16 per cent who trust Westminster - a lead for the Scottish Government of nearly four-to-one. This far greater trust in Holyrood over Westminster is reflected in every single demographic of gender, age and social class.
Among people who backed Labour in the 2011 Scottish Parliament constituency vote, 44 per cent trust the Scottish Government compared to 20 per cent who trust the UK Government, and among Lib Dem voters the figures are 41 per cent to 28 per cent in favour of Holyrood.
And the poll asked whether people agree or disagree with the statement that Scotland could be a successful independent country - finding that 52 per cent agree, compared to just 37 per cent who disagree.
The detailed breakdown shows that these same figures of 52 per cent to 37 per cent apply to women aged 35-54, compared to 44 per cent agreeing and 43 per cent disagreeing for all women. Among people who voted Labour in the 2011 Scottish Parliament constituency vote, 34 per cent agree that Scotland could be a successful independent country, compared to 51 per cent who disagree.
Responding to the Panelbase poll, SNP Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
"It is game on for next September’s referendum. With just over a year to go, this poll indicates that the positive case for Yes is capturing people's imagination, while the No campaign's 'Project Fear' is running out of steam.
"The poll also shows that a clear majority of people back the Yes campaign's contention that Scotland could be a successful independent country - a common-sense proposition which the No campaign daily denigrate. And they trust the Scottish Government rather than Westminster to take decisions for Scotland by a margin of nearly four-to-one. These findings all underline the strength and potential of the Yes vote.
"Polls will move up and down between now and next September as the debate over Scotland’s future gathers pace, but these very encouraging figures show that Yes can win and I believe will win. Certainly, the No campaign can no longer take the people of Scotland for granted.
"As we move closer to the referendum voters are beginning to make up their minds - and this poll suggests that as undecided voters find out more about the opportunities of independence, they are backing a Yes vote in increasing numbers.
"Scotland can be a successful independent country, and it is better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people who live and work here. That is the essence of the case for Yes, and it is a compelling and positive case that the No campaign has no answer to."