LONDON, REUTERS - 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.