Scottish independence: Yes vote is 'closer than ever' says first minister

Alex Salmond was speaking to BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Scottish independence is "closer than it's ever been", First Minister Alex Salmond has said.

Mr Salmond spoke to the BBC as polls suggested a narrowing of the gap between the Yes and No campaigns.

He said people who had never engaged with politics were becoming involved, calling it "a democratic sensation".

The UK government said it would continue to make the "strong, clear argument" that Scotland could have "the best of both worlds" in the UK.

On 18 September, voters in Scotland will be asked the referendum question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Speaking to the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, Mr Salmond said: "Independence is obviously closer than it's ever been but it's not about the opinion polls.

"What's happening is in the streets, the communities, the church halls, the village halls around Scotland."

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Analysis: Prof John Curtice, polling expert
Prof John Curtice Prof John Curtice has been following the campaigns and the polls ahead of Scotland's referendum

We've so far had 81 opinion polls that have posed the question, "should Scotland be an independent country", since the question that's to appear on the ballot paper was settled back in February of last year.

Of those polls, 80 have put the "No" side ahead, and that's the reason why the "No" side, according to the bookies, are the odds-on favourites to win.

That said, however, the polls have consistently disagreed with each other about how far the "No" side are ahead, and some have said it's around 45,46,47% for the "Yes" side.

Other polls have tended to suggest it's around 40,41,42% for "Yes", and looks as though it's all over.

The second health warning is that the more recent polls over the last two or three weeks or so have been suggesting that perhaps the "Yes" side have been making further progress.

Certainly, "No" are still ahead, but it looks as though the "Yes" side may have gained some momentum in the last two or three weeks.

I think that's undoubtedly the reason why, in this last fortnight, both sides are going to fight this campaign very hard indeed - because the "No" side now can't be sure of winning and the "Yes" side still have hope that they can pull it off.

Read more from John Curtice.

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Scotland's first minister claimed the referendum campaign was "a wonderfully engaging, empowering experience with some of our fellow citizens, some of whom have never given a stuff about any politician or any political party but are engaging in this process, queuing to register to vote.

"This is a democratic sensation we're having."

And he claimed that if Scots did not take the "opportunity" of independence they could face "the biggest hangover in history".

The first minister's comments came on the final day of voter registration before the referendum. Local registration centres have reported receiving thousands of applications as the deadline approached.

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Elsewhere in the campaign . . .
Jim Murphy A Sun journalist wearing a chicken suit was among those who turned out to see Mr Murphy speak
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Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said opinion polls would not make the UK government change its strategy.

"We have confidence in the argument that the government and others are making," he said.

"We have always said from the outset that there is no room for complacency.

"The only poll that matters is the referendum itself."

He added: "We have a strong, clear argument we can be confident in.

"The people of Scotland can have the best of both worlds and the message from the UK government, and from Wales and Northern Ireland, is: we want you to stay.

"We have got a strong, clear message and we need to keep making it."

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