Listen to this article
The Scottish leaders of the three main UK political parties are to appear together to show voters they are serious about transferring powers from London if Scotland rejects independence in September’s referendum.
The photo opportunity on Monday comes after three polls suggested a narrowing in the No camp’s lead, indicating that promises of more devolution have not yet had much impact.
Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all promise to transfer more powers over tax and policy to the Scottish parliament in the event of a No victory but have been unable to come up with a joint position.
A Panelbase survey commissioned by Yes Scotland and published on Sunday found the No camp’s lead was just three percentage points, with 12 per cent undecided. A poll by ICM for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper gave the No side a seven-point lead, with 21 per cent still unsure.
Both polls supported indications from Survation last week of renewed momentum for the Yes campaign, although others suggest a much bigger gap still to be bridged for a nationalist victory.
John Curtice, Scotland’s most high-profile psephologist, said voters appeared unconvinced by efforts to persuade them of the prospects for more devolution, which opinion polls suggest would be widely popular.
The Conservative party this month became the last of the three main UK parties to unveil proposals for substantial new powers for Edinburgh. But just 38 per cent of respondents to the ICM poll believed the Scottish parliament would gain more power and responsibility.
The new polls were conducted before intense discussion last week of referendum-related internet abuse and of renewed accusations that the Scottish National party under Alex Salmond, first minister, has tried to intimidate business leaders to prevent them speaking out against independence.
Gavin Hewitt, a former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said he knew of people who had received calls from senior SNP ministers with the implicit message that they should stay out of the debate.
Mr Hewitt declined to give details, but his allegation supports repeated complaints from pro-union campaigners that many Scottish businesses have been cowed into silence. The SNP has strongly denied any attempt to silence opposition.
The Scottish government is preparing to publish a draft interim constitution in the event of a Yes vote, with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, calling for a legal requirement to work toward nuclear disarmament.
The SNP has made removal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons from bases on the Clyde a central plank of its vision for independence.
Ms Sturgeon said the interim constitution would be published for consultation, with a final document drafted after independence by an independent constitutional convention “encompassing civic society”.
She said: “We want to make the drafting of our permanent written constitution a fully inclusive process involving all the people of Scotland – it must be a constitution by the people, for the people.”
Get alerts on Scottish Independence when a new story is published