EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The rival campaigns in Scotland's fight over independence are running neck-and-neck nine days before the referendum, with a surge in support for those who wish to break away from the United Kingdom, a TNS poll showed on Tuesday.
The number of people saying they would vote "No" to independence had dropped to 39 percent, down from 45 percent a month ago. "Yes" support was slightly behind at 38 percent but had gained ground from 32 percent a month ago.
"This poll reveals a remarkable shift in voting intentions," said Tom Costley, head of TNS Scotland. "It is too close to call and both sides will now be energized to make the most of the last few days of the campaign and try and persuade the undecided voters of the merits of their respective campaigns."The late rally by the "Yes" campaign led by Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party, the ruling party in Scotland, now makes the break–up of the United Kingdom - previously thought to be a pipedream - a distinct possibility after a 300-year-old union.
British financial markets tumbled on Monday after an opinion poll showed for the first time this year that Scots may vote for independence in the referendum next week.
The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the "Yes" camp on 51 percent and "No" on 49 percent, excluding don't knows.
The referendum, in which more than 4 million Scots and residents of Scotland are eligible to vote, will take place on Sept. 18.
The TNS poll of 990 people, carried out between Aug. 27 and Sept. 4, found a surge in the number who said they were certain to vote to 84 percent. Among those certain to vote, "No" and "Yes" were tied on 41 percent compared with 46 percent and 38 percent respectively in the previous month.
Women - previously seen as reticent about independence - showed a strong move toward a "Yes" vote. There was also an increased likelihood to vote "Yes" amongst those aged under 55.
The TNS poll showed 41 percent of women surveyed intended to vote "No" compared to 35 percent for "Yes". However, the figure was a drop from 49 percent a month ago, while the "Yes" vote among women had risen from 27 percent, the poll said.
The proportion of undecided voters had risen from 16 percent to 18 percent - a figure that implied about 600,000 people intended to vote but had not decided which way to go.
The independence question has provoked months of impassioned debate in Scotland from business boardrooms to grassroots street campaigns.
Proponents of independence say it is time for Scotland to run its own affairs and choose its own leaders rather than be ruled from London. An independent Scotland can use its North Sea oil revenues to create a prosperous and fairer society, they say.
Advocates of staying in the union say the country is stronger as part of a bigger entity. Going it alone would put it in a precarious economic position, with questions over what currency it would use, its continuing membership of the European Union and NATO, and how much oil is actually left in the North Sea to fill the national coffers, they say.
Britain's main political parties - the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats who rule in a coalition, and the opposition Labour Party - vehemently oppose independence and are holding out the prospect of greater autonomy for Scotland as a way to dent the "Yes" vote.
Yes Scotland Chief Executive Blair Jenkins said the TNS poll was a breakthrough which showed the momentum of the pro-independence campaign.
"Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. More and more people are beginning to realize that a Yes vote is Scotland's one opportunity to make that enormous wealth work better for everyone who lives here," he said in a statement.
"The "No" campaign's empty talk of more powers smacks of utter panic and desperation as they lose their lead in the polls."
Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Janet Lawrence