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Scotland independence race remains tight days before ballot

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Scotland's nationalists and those favoring remaining in the United Kingdom were nearly even in the latest poll on independence before the Sept. 18 secession referendum.

The poll of 1,000 people for the Guardian newspaper yesterday put support for "yes" at 49 percent and "no" at 51 percent after excluding undecided voters. It is the fourth poll in a week to put the "yes" side within the 3 percentage-point margin of error of victory. Only one of those has had the pro-independence side ahead.

"Everyone is showing it as very close, but everyone is showing it on the side of 'no,' " Anthony Wells, an analyst for polling company YouGov, said in an interview. "The chances are that 'no' is ahead, but just by a smidgen."

The nationalists led by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond are racing to close the gap in the final six days before the ballot as Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and the other major British party leaders step up their campaign efforts to avert a "yes" vote.

Salmond and his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, toured seven Scottish cities yesterday. Salmond, who heads the Scottish government in Edinburgh, said he planned to highlight seven key gains the "yes" campaign sees from independence, including job-creating powers and a pledge to maintain the National Health Service.

"A 'yes' vote is a golden opportunity for people in Scotland -- to use that wealth and control policy so that many more people benefit," he said in an emailed statement.

That message contrasts with economic analysis and commentary suggesting that an independent Scotland would lose many if not all of its banks, plus jobs in defense and other industries, while experiencing wilting oil revenues, rising prices at supermarkets and higher mobile-phone charges.

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