We know from the Chancellor that voting No means more cuts - he said so explicitly in his first speech of the year

A COUPLE of interesting things have happened in the referendum debate in the last couple of weeks.

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Firstly, an opinion poll was published at the weekend suggesting that support for independence has increased and that the gap between Yes and No has narrowed.

Of course, it is only one poll but it is still significant.

It was carried out by ICM, the respected pollster that most accurately predicted the outcome of the 2011 referendum on changing the voting system.

It also confirms what many Yes campaigners, myself included, have been hearing on the doorsteps - that more and more people are open minded to the prospect of voting Yes and are keen to be persuaded.

The second interesting development is confirmation - in both the ICM poll and in the results of the annual Scottish Social Attitudes Survey - that the economy is the issue that will decide the outcome of the referendum.

In other words, if people feel that independence will make them, and the country as a whole, better off they will vote Yes.

This gives the Yes campaign a natural advantage in the final eight months of the campaign because, on these economic issues, we have the facts on our side.

An independent Scotland would be the eighth richest country in the world.

Without a single penny of oil and gas revenue, our economic output is roughly the same as the UK as a whole. With oil and gas, it is considerably greater.

In every one of the past 32 years, we have generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole. Our public services, pensions, benefits and tax credits are paid for by the taxes we pay.

That is the situation now and it will be the situation after independence.

The difference is that with independence, we get access to all of our own resources and not just the proportion that Westminster decides we should have.

And that matters. When you take tax and spending together, over the last five years Scotland's public finances have been stronger than the UK as a whole by a total of £12.6 billion - that equates to almost £2400 per person.

If we had been independent, we could have spent that money to reduce borrowing or increase spending on public services - or a bit of both.

Instead it went straight to George Osborne in the Treasury.

In future, independence will allow us to control our own resources and use them to invest in policies - such as childcare - that will make individuals better off.

So independence will be good for the country and for individuals.

BY contrast, we know from the Chancellor himself that voting No means more cuts - he said so explicitly in his first speech of the year.

That is why I firmly believe that if the focus of the referendum campaign is the economy - as it should be - the Yes campaign is on strong ground.

Control of our own wealth and the ability to make our own financially responsible decisions, or leaving our resources in the hands of a Westminster Government set on more cuts - that is the choice we face.

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