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Independence support climbs to six-year high

THE Westminster Government's onslaught against independence is failing, according to a new survey which shows growing support for Scotland going it alone.

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The latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows a tide running with the arguments of the SNP administration at Holyrood, with general support for the scenario hitting a six-year high of 32%, nine points up on last year's level.

While one question, painting a picture of Scots being £500 a year better off under independence earning 65% support, will be dismissed by opponents as loaded, others indicate increasing confidence in Scotland's future.

The "Quad" at the top of the coalition – Prime Minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne and Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander – have been battling on two fronts: to combat the economic crisis and to persuade Scots of the merits of the Union.

First Minister Alex Salmond has said there will be a referendum on the issue in the second-half of the SNP's five-year term.

In recent weeks the Coalition has used official figures to paint a picture of Scotland with a deep structural deficit and seized on a report which argued constitutional uncertainty was hampering investment.

The survey shows that a majority of the 1000 voters questioned believe independence could improve the economy, and the more they believe they will be better off, the more they would be inclined to vote in favour of separation.

Every question which is a repeat of one a year ago shows moves in the same direction, although a majority still back greater powers for Holyrood rather than outright independence.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "It should now be abundantly clear to even the most dyed-in-the-wool Unionist – even to Michael Moore and Danny Alexander – that the people of Scotland are light years ahead of the inadequate provisions of the Scotland Bill. Scotland has moved on and the Westminster parties need to catch up.

"This survey demonstrates conclusively that the people of Scotland want to continue the positive, optimistic journey our nation is on. Now we know that two-thirds of Scots are prepared to back independence on a positive basis.

"Since the reality is that Scotland puts far more into the London exchequer than we get back in return the Yes campaign can, and will, win the economic case for independence. With independence, Scotland will be ranked sixth in the world league table of OECD nations in terms of

GDP per head – 10 places ahead of the UK at 16."

Ms Sturgeon pointed out the latest Government Expenditure and Revenues in Scotland (Gers) statistics showed Scotland pays 9.4% of UK tax with 8.4% of the UK's population. She added it "equals £1000 extra for every man, woman and child in Scotland, or double the figure in this survey".

However, Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary, Margaret Curran, insisted: "Far from being the breakthrough the SNP wanted, this shows the vast majority of Scots support devolution and want to see it stronger and better. The SNP has been in power for almost five years now, and each year support for separation is lower than when Labour formed the Scottish Government.

"There will be a lot of head-scratching at SNP HQ because in poll after poll, support for separation remains a minority occupation. Polls like this explain why Alex Salmond won't name the day."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: "This survey confirms independence is a real possibility now and it is essential we start to get some straight answers and a real debate about the costs of independence."

A spokesman for Mr Moore said: "The survey simply reinforces the fact support for independence in Scotland is around one-third, and fails to go beyond that in poll after poll.

"With so few clear answers on what an independent Scotland would mean and how people's wealth, security, welfare, currency and pensions would be affected and the constantly growing evidence Scotland would be worse off as a separate country, that result should not come as a surprise."

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