Listen to this article
Gordon Brown will on Tuesday make his first speech on behalf of the cross-party campaign to keep Scotland in the UK as a new poll shows the pro-independence side gaining significant ground.
The former Labour prime minister will drop his resistance to supporting the Better Together campaign as, with five months to go, the unionists pull out all the stops in an attempt to stall the gathering momentum of the “yes” campaign.
A poll by ICM for Scotland on Sunday shows the pro-union side has fallen four points in the past month to 42 per cent, while the pro-independence side has remained at 39 per cent. This leaves the gap between the two at just three points, the narrowest ever, excluding a poll for the Scottish National party last year that was criticised for asking leading questions.
The findings continue a narrowing of the polls since the turn of the year, which has continued even after the Westminster parties ruled out sharing a currency with Scotland, in what was supposed to be a game-changing moment. A separate poll for Survation also suggested a tighter race, with the “yes” vote up one point on 38 per cent and “no” down one on 46 per cent.
John Curtice, politics professor at Strathclyde university, said: “This is another poll showing the ‘no’ side is in a real battle if it wants to keep Scotland in the union. When the ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, it is the highest ‘yes’ vote in a poll that has not been commissioned by a partisan organisation.”
Pro-unionists hope that Mr Brown’s intervention on Tuesday, when he will argue in a speech in Glasgow that Scots receive better pension deals for being in the UK, will help stop the “no” campaign’s recent slide.
Alistair Darling, the head of the Better Together campaign and who fell out with Mr Brown when he was Mr Brown’s chancellor, said: “I am very pleased that Gordon Brown is to deliver this speech on Tuesday.
“His 30 years of experience inform his powerful argument that Scotland can benefit from both seizing the opportunities that come from being part of the UK, and at the same time draw on the strength of that union.”
Mr Brown is just one of a number of heavy hitters whom the pro-union campaign hope to roll out in the coming months. Government figures have expressed private frustration that he and other Scottish Labour ministers or former ministers, such as Lord Reid and Jim Murphy, have not done enough to help bolster the campaign.
David Cameron, the prime minister, is also preparing to make speeches in defence of the union, despite admitting recently he was seen as a “Tory toff” in many parts of Scotland.