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Commonwealth Games fails to give Scottish nationalists a lift: poll

By Alistair Smout

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Success for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games has not translated into a boost for the nation's independence movement, according to a poll on Sunday, with time running out ahead of the September referendum.

Nationalists had hoped to capitalize on a feelgood factor from successfully hosting the Games in Glasgow, which has seen a record medal haul for Scottish athletes.

However, support for independence dropped by 1 point to 40 percent, according to a poll by Survation published in the Mail on Sunday. Those voting to remain part of the United Kingdom remained steady at 46 percent. The poll of 1,000 people found 14 percent still undecided.

The 12.6 percent who said that Scotland's good organization of and performance in the Games made them more likely to vote yes was double the proportion who said they were more likely to vote no after the Games. Despite this, over four in five said it made no difference to their voting intentions.

"The Games haven't had a discernible impact - the people who are likely to be swayed by it were probably already strong 'Yes' supporters," said Patrick Brione, director of research at Survation.

"If the nationalists were genuinely believing that this was the one thing that could save their campaign, then perhaps that was a bit naive. But it's not encouraging to be so close to the referendum with no signs of movement."

The constituent parts of the United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - all compete separately in the games as home nations, rather than as one in the Olympics. This spurs local pride.

By Sunday, Scotland's medal tally had surpassed 50 for the first time in the nation's history.

The deputy first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, a member of the Scottish National Party which supports independence, said in the Observer newspaper that the feelgood factor from the Games was a confidence boost and that momentum was with the "Yes" campaign.

ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY

However, Brione said that the chance to celebrate has given many members of the public a welcome distraction from the grind of the campaign.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has consciously sought to play down politics during the Commonwealth Games, which holds its closing ceremony on Sunday.

The end of the Games will now see the campaign build until the September 18 vote, with the first televised debate scheduled for Tuesday as the campaign enters its final six weeks.

Salmond has previously said that playing host to events such as the Games, golf's Ryder Cup, and the 700th anniversary of a famous Scottish defeat of the English makes 2014 a good time to hold a vote on ending 307 years of union with England.

However, the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in June, in which Robert the Bruce trounced Edward II's invading army against the odds in 1314, passed without a noticeable bump for Yes in the polls.

One of Scotland's highest profile businesses, Royal Bank of Scotland, said on Friday that a vote for independence could significantly increase its costs and have a material impact on its business.

Uncertainty over economic issues in particular, such as the question of what currency an independent Scotland will use, is seen as dominating voters' decision making ahead of September.

"When it comes down to it, people will evaluate their personal circumstances and make a decision based on that," Martin Boon, director of ICM Research, said.

"People are unlikely to change their voting intentions based on passing things like the Bannockburn anniversary, or how many gold medals a team of athletes win."

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)

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