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Polling apart on the referendum

Today's fascinating large-scale poll of English voters' views on the future of Scotland makes uncomfortable reading for both the Yes and No camps.

The First Minister Alex Salmond's continued insistence that the UK government would co-operate with his plan to share the pound following a Yes vote is dealt a blow by the finding that English voters opposed that scenario by two to one. A UK Government that no longer had responsibility for Scotland would inevitably pay more attention to the views of its remaining voters than to its departing ones, so this does not bode well for Mr Salmond's plans. There is also a large majority of English voters - three to one - who want Scotland to remain in the Union, which could be seen as a fillip for the No campaign.

But the news for the No campaign is not good either. A majority of English voters want spending in Scotland cut to the UK average after a No vote, equating to a reduction of more than 10 per cent. This will not be welcomed by the three main pro-Union parties, who all wish to retain the Barnett formula.

If feelings ran high on the matter south of the Border, those parties may be forced to revise the Barnett formula, though the impact that would have would depend on the new form it took and would come at a time when Scotland's revenue and funding arrangements are already due to change, with Holyrood set to raise more of its own taxes and greater devolution posing the prospect of it raising still more. It is notable that English voters are inclined to support Scots taking control of the majority of taxes raised in Scotland, a finding that will please the Liberal Democrats and probably the once devo-sceptic Conservatives, but one that puts Labour in a more difficult positionsince its proposals for greater devolution have been less radical than those of the other parties.

One of the most surprising, and potentially worrying, results of the poll, is what it appears to say about how the referendum debate may have altered the relationship between Scotland and England. In the event of a Yes vote, a majority who expressed a view did not believe the rest of the UK should support Scotland's application to join the EU and Nato. This smacks of spite, though may also on the part of some respondents reflect their general Euroscepticism (Ukip and Tory supporters were most likely to take this view). At the same time, an overwhelming majority reject the notion that independence would improve the relationship between England and Scotland while, in the event of No vote, there was a view that Scotland and England would continue to drift apart.

Until now, the views of English voters have played no meaningful part in the debate, but they will only gain importance following the vote, when there will either be negotiations about independence or greater devolution. On Monday, Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling go head to head once more in a televised debate, and this time it will be broadcast across the UK. This will only increase the engagement of voters south of the Border and push the issue up the scale of political priorities for them and their MPs.

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