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As Scotland Eyes Independence, Poll Gives Edge To Leaving The U.K.

On the Isle of Skye, a hand-painted sign says "Yes" to Scottish independence.
Melisa Goh
On the Isle of Skye, a hand-painted sign says "Yes" to Scottish independence.

In less than two weeks, voters in Scotland will decide whether to pursue their independence from the United Kingdom — and for the first time, a poll shows the push to break away now has the edge over the "unity" vote.

The Scottish National Party has been urging people to vote "Yes" in the Sept. 18 vote on splitting with the U.K. The group recently published a video touting Scotland's economic strength and its energy assets. The video closes by urging voters to "put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands."

The group is contested by the campaign, which is using the slogan "No thanks." The group says that those who want to break with the U.K. are underestimating the costs of going it alone.

The debate is far from over — and there's a chance it could continue far beyond the vote. For now, signs urging a "Yes" or a "No" vote on the question of leaving the U.K. are popping up at demonstrations and on buildings.

From London, NPR's Ari Shapiro reports:

"It's never a good idea to give too much weight to a single poll. But this survey seems consistent with larger trends. A couple months ago, the unity campaign had a strong double-digit lead over the independence camp. Over the last few weeks, that lead shrank, and now it has apparently vanished.

"For the first time, a poll by YouGov for London's Sunday Times newspaper says more decided voters plan to vote for independence than unity: 51 to 49 percent. That's within the margin of error.

"The government in London, which is fighting to keep the U.K. intact, quickly responded by saying it will soon lay out plans for Scotland to get more autonomy if voters choose to stay. The vote is a week from Thursday."

The issue of Scotland possibly breaking away has been a hot topic this summer, in both serious and not-so-serious conversations. And this weekend, U.K. Chancellor George Osborne's promise to provide Scotland with new powers led to some joking on the Internet.

A satirical list that was touted as a "first look" at the new powers was posted to Twitter, highlighting abilities such as "Immunity to hangovers" and "Unlimited Kate Bush tickets."

But the topic has provoked many complicated questions, such as what the fate of Britain's naval bases in Scotland might be if the union were dissolved — and what it means to be Scottish.

Reporting on the independence vote last month, Ari noted, "In the 300 years that Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom, there has never been a national referendum on whether people want to be part of this union or go independent. So it's a huge deal."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.