#IndyRef: “‘Yes’ needs a game changer, and where is that going to come from during the summer?

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Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 02.05.24The odd thing about yesterday’s dramatic YouGov poll in The Times is that it wasn’t that dramatic. 60/40 is reflective of a settled split in the Scottish people over the last few years, and to be fair, the latest Scotland Thinks Poll of Polls has the Yes camp rating just above that on 43%.

The gap seems almost irreducible because  among other things, as John Curtice has said, it’s about the economy, stupid. Being the bird in the bush, it’s the Yes camp that has run into the greater credibility problem in that regard. That gives you some measure of the difficulty of selling an unknown to the middle class.

And the so-called Project Fear has plenty of intangibles to work off…

…just 17% say they would personally be better off as a result of independence, down two points on both March and December. As many as 43% believe they would be worse off.

Ironically, when the currency issue came to a head back in February the overbearing attitude of the increasingly detached members of Westminster’s parish of politicians and journalists there was a sharp rise in the polls in its immediate wake. But, I suspect, these are separate issues of climate and weather.

My prediction from that time that the outcome of the #IndyRef is all but decided may yet prove an embarrassing hostage to fortune, but I suspect that despite all the stormy squalls it is the No campaign which is more in tune with the current unpredictable climate by seeming to offer less risk.

In his column for the FT this week, Janan Ganesh writes about the similarly negative strength of Cameron’s hand in any upcoming Brixit referendum:

Britons will not base their vote on a forensic reading of the powers lost and gained by Mr Cameron. Instead, they will weigh up the (relative) clarity of membership with the ambiguity of exit.

The Out campaigners can only win if they clear up exactly what “Out” means: whether leaving the EU entirely; or settling for a Swiss-style middle option; or inventing a third model of membership that offers access to the internal market without the concomitant regulations.

“Trust us, it will all work itself out” is a brave line to use on an electorate as risk averse as the British.

Of course, that does not mean that an upset is not possible. But the Irish experience suggests that in order to get positive proposition which displaces the status quo you have need to have a lead of sufficient size to withstand the change sentiment that usually kicks in towards the poll date.

The big problem for the Yes camp is that it has yet to hit the front. Even the scrupulously small ‘c’ conservative analysis of John Curtice is now suggesting that it’s a big ask for Salmond

It is going to be very, very difficult. It has looked difficult for quite a while. It needs a game changer, and where is that going to come from during the course of the summer?”

According to Quintin’s Ten Iron Laws for winning a referendum, Alex Salmond has done most things well. Two things may help defeat him in June: one, the lateness of the date  in his own government’s lifetime; and two, the messiness around the economic forecasting has helped unravel the appealing simplicity of the social union.

Perhaps more relevantly though, this particular solution to the West Lothian seems to have an imprecise ceiling at around 40%+ of the Scottish population. At the end of the day the experience may help harden the perceptions of a separate and serious Scottish political culture.

And one that London-headquartered parties will continue to take for granted only at their own and the Union’s peril.

Things have changed, if not quite utterly.

  • grandimarkey

    Ah the polls. God bless em. Of course it’s not too difficult to find a poll that will inevitably say the opposite. But as we all know there’s only one that matters.

    I’ve been canvassing people’s doors for a while now. It’s generally been 40% Yes, 30% Undecided and 30% No. Of course, I would say that but since I’m not really trying to convince anyone on here to vote either way (as most don’t have a vote) then the pinch of salt needn’t be too big. That’s my honest reporting of my door knocking experiences.

    In saying that yesterday’s 2 hour door-knocking stint returned the largest No count I’ve seen yet, but then only 9 doors opened of about 50 (2 Yes, 3 No, 3 Undecided and 1 Refused to Declare if anyone’s interested. Of the 3 Undecided, 2 were swinging Yes and one just had no idea. I’d probably put the refused to declare as a No, you can kinda tell after a while). I put that down to it being an unusually sunny day in Glasgow, and Yes supporters being the naturally optimistic and hopeful people they are were outside enjoying themselves while No voters were inside being generally conservative and boring* :-)

    However during my day in the sun I walked through a large municipal park and encountered a group of people listening to a man dressed in Yes regalia. I stopped to listen and he noticed my Yes badge. I chatted with him after he’d spoken to the crowd about the merits of independence and took questions from the people who had stopped to listen. He had done this of his own accord and was on his own, he made his way to a public park and picked a busy spot and asked people how they were voting and others gathered. It was amazing. The reconnection with democracy and civil action taking place is so stupidly invigorating and incredible to witness, I’ve never seen so many people clued up about the intricacies of government and international relations. It’s kind of the chat now, and will only increase as we get closer to September. And long may it continue. A healthy democracy** needs people to be active and involved and I just hope that whatever the vote it doesn’t go away.

    As an aside. I’ve never seen anyone from the No side canvass in Glasgow. Perhaps it’s because Glasgow is a majority Yes city and their resources would be better spent elsewhere but I’ve never seen any kind of equivalent of the public-park man on the No side, nor anyone door-kocking. The Status-Quo is perhaps not overly inspirational.

    *A joke of course
    **Which it’s worth noting the UK isn’t. Scottish votes mean nothing in Westminster, they have virtually no impact on the make-up of the government whatsoever leaving Scottish interests sidelined over those in the SE of England. The only way to ensure a representative democracy for Scotland is a Yes vote. And there are quite a sizeable amount of people sitting in the Palace of Westminster who weren’t elected in any way shape or form.

  • Mick Fealty

    GM,

    Canvass returns aren’t polling… ;-)

  • grandimarkey

    But I love them anyway…

  • david stuart

    mick

    can I ask why you gov the 2011 Scottish election wrong?

    thx

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    To paraphrase Matthew 24:44

    So you also must be ready, because the Tory cockup will come at an hour when you do not expect it, but as sure as night follows day it will come.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think those are often overvalued in this market Count…

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Maybe so, in the past but as election date approaches dont discount the unionist ability to place silver foot firmly in mouth and in the context of the election will see the Scots vote for a better future for their children, if not for themselves

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Movement of maritime boundaries, refusal to use the pound, clyde to remain nuclear, inequitable distribution of UK assets, scaremongering on membership of internaltional institutions, blatant lies in regard to fiscal probity, english preaching, negative electioneering, NHS model not transferable….maybe the yes vote just have to out the list together in a one pager.

  • MYtwocents

    I would say from now on in the no campaign motto should and probably is a mixture of, least said (soonest mended) , and, (when in doubt) say nowt.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Excellent advice but it wont be taken.

  • BarneyT

    Fear will have the greatest influence….along with the “east Brits”…to revamp a native phrase in these parts.

    Its hard to see how the Yes vote can gather the steam it needs to get past the post first.

    If the EU is valued north of the border, which I suspect it is, then Camerons antics should be seized upon. Despite the scaremongering regarding Scotland’s ineligibility for EU membership, they should perhaps push the EU door regardless. Surely they can sell the message that Scotland’s wider interests are best served by those that want to remain in the EU and who speak for Scotland. The current rUK government does not meet these requirements.

  • Reader

    BarneyT: Despite the scaremongering regarding Scotland’s ineligibility for EU membership, they should perhaps push the EU door regardless.
    The notion that Scotland wouldn’t get into the EU was always ridiculous. All Scotland will need to do is accept the Euro and restrictions on VAT and Corporation tax rates and they’ll get in, so long as rUK doesn’t stop them.

  • MYtwocents

    C4 news just run a report, and part of it was concerning how Scottish RCs are moving from the no camp to the yes. a summer of trouble in ulster could send these votes back to the no, camp, a “game changer” in reverse.

  • Scots Anorak

    “Canvass returns aren’t polling…”

    True, but polls aren’t simply polls either, in that they’re not simply a like-for-like arithmetical extrapolation of answers received. Throughout the campaign there has been a marked difference in the results returned by Internet and non-Internet pollsters, with YouGov now the most “no”-friendly of any major polling company, mainly owing to its upweighting of various key groups, including English-born Scots and voters who switched from Labour to the SNP in 2011.

    All pollsters have their own methodologies, of course, and YouGov may yet turn out to be right, but I’d personally be surprised if “no” achieved as resounding a result as 60/40. I think it will be, and feel, much closer, with some age cohorts (under-55s?), and social groups (men, Catholics, CDEs?), not to mention entire regions, almost certain to vote “yes” and a strong possibility of another referendum within a few years if there is a “no” vote.

    In the end, the result in September will depend on currently undecided voters and on turnout.

    For discussion of this, see http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/.

  • grandimarkey

    @MYtwocents

    “C4 news just run a report, and part of it was concerning how Scottish RCs are moving from the no camp to the yes. a summer of trouble in ulster could send these votes back to the no, camp, a “game changer” in reverse.”

    How could a summer of trouble in Ulster send those votes back to No? I think you’re vastly over-estimating the influence NI has on Scottish politics.

    I’m an RC and I’m voting Yes. Gallloway is talking absolute nonsense when he states that Catholic’s will be persecuted in an iScotland. He’s stuck in a bizarre time warp (I actually think he’s chosen the wrong side and know’s it and is clinging to any excuse he can for voting No. All his ex-comrades, the likes of Sillars, Sheridan, are voting Yes and he could never make a public Uturn, not him).

    @Reader
    The notion that Scotland wouldn’t get into the EU was always ridiculous. All Scotland will need to do is accept the Euro and restrictions on VAT and Corporation tax rates and they’ll get in, so long as rUK doesn’t stop them.

    I do agree that the notion Scotland wouldn’t be allowed entry into the EU is ludicrous. Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and the EU is at heart an expansionist union. If they’re allowing Ukraine to join the concept of a wealthy, oil-rich western European nation being denied entry is laughable. However the point of accepting the Euro is perhaps not the case. There is no precedent for what is about to happen in Scotland, and as such no one really knows what will happen with Europe (aside from an entry probably sooner rather than later). The presumption that the rUK is the continuing state could prove a falsehood. Also everyone in Scotland by way of a British passport is already an EU citizen and as such may not have to reapply. I think in the event of an iScotland the nation would be allowed membership of the EU without ‘accepting’ the Euro. If you fancy a cheeky £10 on it?

    However this is not a referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU. It’s an election on whether or not Scotland should decide it’s own EU policy. There is a certain amount of drive on the left in Scotland not to join the EU, which is seen as a rather large Neo-Liberal Club and as such would prefer simply a Norwegian style membership of the EEA.

    Of course, it should be Scotland herself that decides these issues and hopefully September will bring about the agency through which to do it.

  • Seamuscamp

    Grandimarkey
    Oh dear, oh dear!
    “Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world”. Certainly it is wealthier than Bhutan, Papua, and some recent EU members; but so what? It only requires one member to oppose entry for entry to be refused. So any one of the governments currently facing calls for regional independence could sink the Scottish application to join – off-hand I think that group would include Spain, Belgium, Italy. Not to mention the rump UK. At the very least entry would have to be negotiated and that negotiation would require adopting the Euro and everything that goes with it.
    “it’s not too difficult to find a poll that will inevitably say the opposite”. You are attempting to compare YouGov with a bunch of proponents (“Radical Independence”) seeking a particular answer. As for your personal experience, was this not limited to one area? A bit like polling on Sandy Row?

    Mick
    “According to Quintin’s Ten Iron Laws for winning a referendum, Alex Salmond has done most things well.” If AS has done most things well accirding to Quentin’s Laws, there must be something inadequate about the Laws. The AS approach had the same weakness as with another AS (Scargill). A lot of wishful thinking and assumptions about how the opponent might respond: EU, oil revenue, sterling, pensions, jobs. No answers, no plan B. Like Celtic and Rangers imagining they would be welcomed by the Premier League.

    As an instinctive Nationalist, I would like to see the Scotnats succeed – it would make the NI transition easier. But their obdurate incompetence in this campaign will make it harder.

  • Mick Fealty

    Gary Gibbons’ blog: http://goo.gl/Ks2hBk

  • Charles_Gould

    Presumably salmon must resign if he loses?

  • Dewi

    A few things can change.
    1) the current steady drip of labour stalwarts defecting to the good guys could accelerate
    2) the declaration signatures could reach the magic million mark (declared as impossible by many it,s reached 800,000 2 and a half months to go)
    3) Salmond hasn’t really started yet….he’ll win al tv debates easily if past proves anything.
    4) The yes campaign are happy at the moment. the timing and acceleration of momentum are both crucial.
    5) Yes have a GOTV organisation. from what I’m hearing i’m not sure “No Thanks” have….

  • grandimarkey

    @Seamuscamp

    Certainly it is wealthier than Bhutan, Papua, and some recent EU members; but so what?

    A fine bunch of independent nations no doubt. However it’s probably worth noting that an independent Scotland’s GDP would be higher than that of France and even if the great secret wish of the No side (that Scotland’s geographical share of North Sea oil suddenly disappeared overnight) came true, Scotland would still have a higher GDP than Italy. Bring the black stuff back in and Lord knows what Japan, Finland or even the rUK will do to keep the lights on…

    It only requires one member to oppose entry for entry to be refused. So any one of the governments currently facing calls for regional independence could sink the Scottish application to join – off-hand I think that group would include Spain, Belgium, Italy. Not to mention the rump UK. At the very least entry would have to be negotiated and that negotiation would require adopting the Euro and everything that goes with it.

    No one knows if that will be the case. One of the wealthiest countries in the world, in a situation where they are potentially a continuing state (or not), asking to join (if she has to) an expansionist union of which Scotland contains 60% of Europe’s oil reserves is something that has never happened before. In such a situation there may be more give than take… However the point still stands. Whether Scotland continues as a member state/applies to join the EU or not should be up to the people of Scotland. Personally I would rather an iScotland wasn’t a member of the EU but hey, that’s the debate Scotland has post-Yes. And if one is actually very EU inclined, then the only way to ensure, at least a democratically representative, debate about Scotland being in the EU or not is to do so as an independent nation. If every single voter in Scotland votes to remain in the EU in a 2016 post-No union, it won’t make a single iota of difference if middle-England votes to leave.

    You are attempting to compare YouGov with a bunch of proponents (“Radical Independence”) seeking a particular answer.

    Mick has already pointed out my lack of political science nuance/fundamental grasp of terminology :-) I accept it. A cynic may say that UK-Government funded polls are also trying to seek a particular answer but as an optimist I would never be so daring. There’s only one poll that matters and that’s why I’ll keep banging doors until September 18th.

    As for your personal experience, was this not limited to one area? A bit like polling on Sandy Row?

    There is simply no comparison. Glasgow is not a religiously ghettoised city like Belfast. And even if it was, religious identity has not been a major influence in the debate. However you have a point in that the area I generally campaign in is a rather well-to-do middle class area of the city. Not a constituency that would traditionally favour change. Probably all the more encouraging that the Yes voters tend to outnumber the No’s with the undecideds being a rival for Yes’s. And those undecideds are where my (and the Yes campaign’s) energy will be directed for the next 2 months.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    There is still potential for a number of ‘game changers’ – not least of which will be when the leaders’ debate happens and Salmond wipes the floor with Cameron or whichever plank they put up in his place.

  • Kensei

    The polls have been too consistently coming down on the no side to think that Yes would do it – but

    1. There is still time, and the campaign closer to the time might play a part. I’m not a fan of “game changers” – support will build then tip if it is going to happen
    2. I’m not sure the assumption that things will break towards No is necessarily a sound one
    3. The scale of the defeat is likely to have major consequences in terms of what promises for more power for Scotland translate into action
    4. I expect the campaign will leave a lot of infrastructure that will be helpful to the SNP.
    5. The polls are all over the place as political betting points out elsewhere.

  • Seamuscamp

    Grandimarkey
    “However it’s probably worth noting that an independent Scotland’s GDP would be higher than that of France and even if the great secret wish of the No side (that Scotland’s geographical share of North Sea oil suddenly disappeared overnight) came true, Scotland would still have a higher GDP than Italy”

    Do they still print the Beano in Dundee?

    GDP statistics are indeed hard to grasp and can be ambiguous. But n this case not that hard and not that ambiguous

    According to the Riaghaltas na h-Alba website:
    “Scottish Gross Domestic Product in 2013 (excluding extra-regio) was £129 billion. Including a population share of UK extra-regio activity, GDP in 2012 was £131 billion.”
    According to the website countryeconomy.com the French GDP was $2735 billion (about $200 billion more than the UK as a whole). And Italy was $2072 billion. Eire was $218 billion – a bit more than Scotland..

    So, are you expecting a Grand Collapse of the French economy in 2014? Or a massive expansion of Scottish wealth?

    “A cynic may say that UK-Government funded polls are also trying to seek a particular answer ”
    YouGov is not government funded, it is a commercial polling organisation headed by Peter Kellner.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    I think there is a momentum towards a Yes in the medium to long term but probably too slow for September. Thus the big game changer is that the highest % of no voters are aged 65 or over. At that rate the 2024 referendum will be won comfortably with a decade of devmax to ease the transition.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    ‘….a 2024 referendum….’

  • http://www.stratagemInt.com Quintin Oliver

    Thanks for the namecheck, Mick, for that piece, now 28 months ago!

    But I shall certainly revisit the ‘laws’ after the Scottish Question is answered in September – at least two may need ‘amendments’, from my experience in and observation of the campaign.

    To which ones, reader, should I apply some Slugger-induced scrutiny?

  • http://www.stratagemInt.com Quintin Oliver

    My other point is about ‘the day after’ – is N. Ireland plc ready to lay outs its stall?

    Which devo-max options excite us? What would help our economic recovery? Social cohesion?

    And have we begun any discussions at all with the Welsh, Scots, Londoners or the North of England, to build a coalition of interest, perhaps?