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Scottish independence campaign gains ground despite TV debate flop

Support for an independent Scotland has risen slightly in the last month even though Alex Salmond, the fiery nationalist leading the breakaway campaign, failed to win a high-profile TV debate, two opinion polls showed on Sunday.

With just five weeks to go before a Sept. 18 referendum in which Scots will decide whether to end their 307-year union with England and break up the United Kingdom, both polls showed support for independence had risen by 2 percentage points once undecided voters were excluded.

Like most other polls, both put the anti-independence campaign firmly in the lead however.

The surveys heartened nationalists who had expected Salmond, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, to win a TV debate with the leader of the anti-independence campaign, Alistair Darling, on Aug. 5.

In the event, Salmond unexpectedly failed to turn the U.S.-style debate into a victory for his cause.

On Sunday, an ICM poll for the Scotland on Sunday paper put support for independence at 38 percent, up 4 points in a month. Support for the anti-independence camp rose 2 points to 47 percent. Some 14 percent were undecided.

A second poll, undertaken by Panelbase, put support for the pro-independence camp at 42 percent, up 1 percentage point in a month. Support for the anti-independence camp fell by 2 points to 46 percent; 12 percent said they were undecided.

When the “don’t knows” were stripped out, both polls, which were based on samples of about 1,000 people each, showed a 2 point swing toward the pro-independence campaign.