Nate Silver on Scottish independence: 'There's virtually no chance'

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Sing when you're winning: Polls suggest the Better Together campaign will win in 2014
Sing when you're winning: Polls suggest the Better Together campaign will win in 2014

The campaign for Scottish independence has "virtually no chance" of success, according to one of the most influential pollsters in the world.

Nate Silver, who humiliated political pundits in the US by predicting the correct outcome in all 50 states in the 2012 presidential elections, said only a "major crisis" in England could reverse the trend in the polls before Scotland votes in September next year.

"There's virtually no chance that the Yes side will win," he told the Scotsman.

"If you look at the polls, it's pretty definitive really where the No side is at 60-55% and Yes side is about 40 or so.


"Historically, in any Yes or No vote in a referendum, it's actually the No side that tends to grow over time, people tend not to default to changing the status quo.

"The No side is even more dominant with the younger voters, so there's not going to be any generational thing going on."

Polling from YouGov, TNS-BMRB and Ipsos Mori shows a consistent level of support for independence at around a third.

Yes campaigners insist that people will shift into their camp as they find out more about plans for an independent Scotland, but there are few opportunities left for them to turn the tables.

The last major event preparing for independence will come when the Scottish National party (SNP) government publishes a white paper with its vision for an independent Scotland later this year.

"If there was a major crisis in England – if the eurozone split apart and there were ramifications economically (for the UK) – the maybe things would reconsidered a little bit," Silver said.

"For the most part it looks like it's a question of how much the No side will win by, not what the outcome might be."

The American pollster compared the situation in Scotland to Quebec, the French-speaking Canadian province which has long struggled for independence but then rejected a vote on independence.

"That is a case where a smaller country reads more about the economic consequences and it becomes harder to change the status quo," Silver said.

"That was one where the Yes vote had been ahead, then faded down the stretch and lost.

"So on general principle, even if you took all the undecided votes, they are more likely to end up being No votes than Yes votes."

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