Gordon Brown delivers a speech at Scottish Labour campaign headquarters on September 9, 2014 in Glasgow. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Scottish No side ahead by six points in new poll

Yes campaign momentum halted as new survey puts No ahead by 53%-47%. 

After a torturous week, the Scottish No side finally has something to cheer. A new poll by Survation for the Daily Record, the first since last weekend's stunning YouGov poll putting Yes ahead for the first time, has the Unionists in the lead by 53 per cent to 47 per cent (excluding the 10 per cent who are undecided). Those figures are unchanged since the company's last survey on 28 August. 

Significantly, Gordon Brown's dramatic intervention appears to have helped, with just 21 per cent of Labour voters now backing independence, compared to 30 per cent previously. Blair McDougall, the Better Together campaign director, has responded by saying:  "This fight for Scotland's future will go right down to the wire, but it's one we will win.

"Alex Salmond wants us to take so many huge risks - over our pound, pensions and NHS. The last few days have shown that these risks are real. Separation would cost jobs and push up costs for families in Scotland. This is too important for a protest vote. There would be no going back.

"We don't need to take on all these risks. There is a better way for Scotland. We can have more powers for Scotland over tax and welfare, and keep the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. For the sake of future generations we should say No Thanks to separation next week."

As his cautious reaction suggests, it's important to remember this is just one poll and the race remains perilously close. But crucially, and to the Unionists' huge relief, the momentum that the Yes side enjoyed has been halted tonight. 

The nationalists, meanwhile, are highlighting the fact that their support, if the don't knows are included, is at the highest level yet in a Survation poll (42 per cent). Here's the statement issued by Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins: 

"This puts Yes support at its highest yet in a Survation poll when those still undecided are included, and at 47 per cent excluding don’t knows - which confirms we are in touching distance of success next Thursday, and will galvanise all those who are wanting and working for a Yes to redouble their efforts.

"As we say in response to all the polls, we are working flat out to ensure that we achieve a Yes vote, because it’s the biggest opportunity the people of Scotland will ever have to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy.

"It is now abundantly clear that the No campaign parties are offering nothing new in terms of more powers, which fall far short of what Scotland needs. A Yes vote is Scotland’s one opportunity to achieve job-creating powers and protect our NHS from the damaging effects of Westminster privatisation and cuts."

Expect the No side's message to remain the same until 18 September: there is no room for complacency. But tonight, perhaps, there may be no need to panic either. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.