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Even pro-UK voters reject Trident move

SCOTS are overwhelmingly opposed to replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system, with opposition running at 75% even among those planning to vote No in next year's independence referendum.

That figure rises to 87% among those planning to vote Yes and the same figure applies to those who are as yet un-decided on the referendum issue, according to a TNS BMRB poll carried out for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The headline figures on the constitution in the poll, carried out from February 20-28, appear to show a firming up of opinion, with a nine-point drop in those undecided on the referendum issue compared with the previous month's TNS poll carried in The Herald.

With undecided voters falling from 24% to 15%, Yes voters totalled 33% (up five points) and No 52% (up four).

The poll then asked the question commissioned by Scottish CND: "The UK Government plans to replace the existing Trident nuclear weapons with a new system, at a cost of £65 billion. Do you support or oppose the UK Government buying a new nuclear weapon system to replace Trident?"

While the results did show a clear correlation between support for independence and opposition to Trident, this was not as marked as might have been expected. The overall figures showed 14% in favour of replacement, 60% opposed, with 25% undecided.

Stripping the latter out gave an overall figure of 19% for replacement and 80% against.

Among those planning to vote Yes, opposition to Trident ran at 87% to 13%, with an identical figure for those still undecided on independence. Among No voters opposition to Trident was also strong, at 75% to 25%.

Arthur West, chair of Scottish CND, said: "This poll shows a clear majority of Scots don't want to waste billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons. It also shows there is very little support for Trident replacement among those who have not yet decided how to vote in 2014."

There findings are intriguing for both camps in the referendum battle. Yes Scotland will sense an opportunity to use the strong feelings on the Trident issue to win over the undecided and persuade those planning to vote No that only a switch to a Yes vote will block Trident.

But Better Together will be heartened that in spite of strong feelings on nuclear weapons, other factors outweigh the Trident question as a clear majority are still planning to vote No.

The January and February polls were not directly compar-able. For the first poll, TNS stuck with the question it has used since August 2007: "Do you agree/disagree that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the UK so that Scotland becomes and independent state?"

However, given the Electoral Commission has now approved a referendum question and this has been accepted by the Scottish Government, from now on TNS and other polling com-panies will use that.

The question put in the latest poll was: "There will be a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of 2014. If this referendum were to be held tomorrow, how would you vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Whether the drop in undecided voters was caused by this new wording, or whether Scots are beginning to firm up their views, TNS cannot be sure. The last two polls have both included 16 and 17-year-olds in the sample of more than 1000 voters, with no sign of any impact on the result.

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