A "rogue" Scottish independence poll triggered a push for extra powers for Scotland and changed the course of history, a Labour peer has claimed.


Lord Foulkes made the comments as he called on the UK Government to regulate polls in the run up to elections.

He also claimed that controversial polls before the General Election could even have contributed to the Conservative's shock victory.

Setting out his proposals in the Lords the former MSP said: "What reinforced to me that accurate polling is such an important issue for our democracy.. was one rogue poll, held on September 7 2014, that seemed to indicate for the first time in the referendum that the Yes campaign were ahead.

"This caused a widespread panic among all of the politicians in the Better Together campaign and it resulted in the vow on the front page of the Daily Record for even greater devolution of powers to Scotland."

He added: "In light of the actual results of the referendum, it is clear the fear of the Yes victory were unfounded and the nationalists had directly benefited from just one highly inaccurate poll.

"The course of history was changed by that one inaccurate poll."

YouGov, which published the Scottish poll, has always rejected suggestions it was a rogue survey.

On Labour's disastrous general election defeat, he added: "There were major policy issues absent (from the debate) as a result of polls .. so the results of the election could well have been different if we had focused on those major policy issues."

Within 24 hours of the poll putting the Yes campaign ahead the leaders of the pro-Union parties had pressed the nuclear button.

David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg collectively cancelled that week's planned Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons to fly to Scotland to campaign against independence.

Just days later all three joined together in an eve of poll declaration of "the Vow" pledging more powers to Scotland if voters rejected Yes.

The Vow led directly to the cross-party Smith Commission on further devolution, which in turn formed the basis of the Scotland Bill currently going through Westminster.

The Bill is currently at the centre of a row between the SNP, who claim it does not go far enough, and the Conservative Government, who insist that it implements the Smith proposals in full.

A separate controversy erupted over polls in the wake of last month's General Election result.

Many had put Labour and the Conservatives effectively neck and neck in the run up to May 7's vote.

In the end the Conservatives won convincingly, with a surprise majority in the Commons.

The British Polling Council and Market Research Society have since announced investigations into what went wrong.

Conservative peers attacked the proposals put forward by Lord Foulkes, which would create a Political Opinion Polling Regulation Authority designed to set rules on polling - including when they could be published.

Lord Cooper of Windrush, a co-founder of the polling company Populus, said that a state-backed poll authority "couldn't and wouldn't" have stopped the recent mistakes.

In fact, he argued, such a body would make it more difficult to identify and fix the errors.

Minister Lord Bridges of Headley said that the Bill would create an "opinion police", and pose a threat to freedom of speech.

Experts also warned that the Private Members' Bill could harm academic freedom.

The Political Studies Association, whose members are politics academics, said the proposals were ill-conceived.

Professor Matthew Flinders, chair of the PSA, said: "The important work done by the likes of the British Election Study and our own EPOP (Elections, Public Opinion and Parties) specialist group would be seriously disrupted if they were forced to adhere to rules of sampling and question wording laid down by the authority, as this bill proposes.

"The PSA feels that the bill is ill-advised and is being unnecessarily rushed through.

"It should not be considered at least until after the findings of the British Polling Council Inquiry."

The Bill received a second reading and will be debated further at committee but it is unlikely to become law.