Lots of remarkable happenings in the last week or so in Scotland’s #IndyRef debate. Some of it needs taking with salt. For instance, whilst Barroso is correct to say that an independent Scotland will have to apply for membership of the EU, it’s hard to see what grounds anyone in the EU would have for saying no.
It’s also true to say that the No campaign has hardly set the world alight. There have been precious few inspiring reasons given for staying in the Union, more just an unremitting focus on all the deficits. It’s in the nature of such Yes/No arguments that the No team always gets the dirty end of the stick (just ask successive Irish governments?) but, speaking from the Irish experience, they generally know what to do with it.
I have to say that Alex Salmond’s done a great job in a fight he was never likely to win. Not because there’s not huge value in an independent Scotland, but that people generally don’t like uncertainty and to shut uncertainty out, they will choose No, even if their bolder selves would prefer a yes.
With all the other red herrings set aside, the reason Salmond is likely to lose in September is not the polls, its his government’s over simplification of the currency problem that will kill the Yes campaign dead. And I say this despite a decent rally in the Survation poll, which saw Yes go up 6% and no down 5%.
The problem is that the hard analysis of the currency union is that it guts the idea of Scotland being actually independent in any meaningful way. As part of a stepping stone strategy it still leaves an ‘independent’ Scotland teathered to English fiscal policy, and with all the hard yards left to do.
Martin Kettle (2k comments and counting) probably nails it better than most commentators:
It is often said, by admirer and critic alike, that Salmond is a man who plays a long game. If that is the case, then what is the long game that has such a reflexive and prominent place for such low-level sneering? To read some commentators, you may think that Salmond has simply tapped in to the Scottish public’s view. Maybe that feeling of being talked down to and told off, even bullied, is the feeling that most Scots share this week. Salmond has captured their mood before. So he may do it again.
But a rather more persuasive explanation for the inadequacy of the SNP’s engagement with serious issues this week is that it may suspect the game is up. The party has read the steadiness in the polls and realised it is not going to win a referendum that Salmond neither wanted nor expected until his shock landslide in 2011 forced him to hold it.
In that case, the long game may simply be an SNP core vote strategy, designed not to persuade but to maximise the anti-English, anti-British, anti-Tory, anti-neoliberal vote that the nationalists have successfully corralled in the past – and await another day.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty