Alex Salmond seems to be edging closer to a win as the referendum approaches. Photo: Getty
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Scotland poll puts Yes vote nearly neck-and-neck with Union support

A poll on Scottish independence for the Times has found the Union "on a knife edge" with the Yes campaign only three points away from victory.

A YouGov poll for the Times on the Scottish independence referendum has caused some rather hysterical headlines today. The paper itself splashed with "Victory in reach for Salmond, poll shows", and described the Union as being "on a knife edge" because of what the figures showed. There are only 16 days to go until the vote, and this latest poll has put support for independence at 47 per cent, against 53 per cent for those who wish to remain in the UK.

Here's what the polling looks like:

YouGov polled 1,063 adults in Scotland between 28 August and 1 September.

The Times article analysing this polling points out that, "after months of stagnation, support for separation has risen by eight percentage points in a month". Another YouGov poll at the beginning of last month put the Yes campaign at 41 per cent support, it then jumped a fortnight later to 43 per cent, so there has been a clear rise in recent weeks in support for independence, at least according to the polls.

Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov, has stressed today that this poll's results should not be dismissed. He has written on the YouGov website today:

Over the next 16 days, we shall find out whether the momentum of the past month is sustained, or if the ‘yes’ vote has peaked following the second television debate. But even if ‘no’ finally wins the day, it now looks less likely that it will win by a big enough margin to deliver a knock-out blow to supporters of independence.  If the final vote is anything like our current poll figures, I would not bet much against a second referendum being held within the next 10-15 years.

This is an interesting conclusion. The Better Together campaign, even if it continues to be confident of a referendum No vote, will worry about the "neverendum" scenario, where the Yes campaign loses by so little that it would lead to another independence referendum. I also hear from a Labour aide to an MP in a seat in the north of England that there is concern among representatives of northern seats that such a close result in the referendum will lead to northern regions in England envisaging more autonomy for themselves. Such a close vote, even if – as is still widely expected – Scotland remains in the Union, may still have a great deal of constitutional implications.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.