“Poll: Scotland on the brink of independence” Time to panic?

For Scotland on Sunday to strike such a headline shows it’s time to panic says the Speccie.

“Mr Darling and his allies in Better Together have to wake up to the fact that they have managed to blow a 20-point lead in a few months and the gap between the two sides looks like it is now within the margin of error for polling companies.

Not only does the Yes camp have the momentum, it has the foot soldiers on the ground in numbers the No camp can only dream about.”

A landmark ICM survey for today’s Scotland on Sunday reveals a decline in the No vote from 46 per cent to 42 per cent over the past month. Over the same period, the Yes vote has remained steady at 39 per cent, resulting in a significant tightening of the gap between the two sides.

When the 19 per cent “don’t knows” are excluded from the equation, the No vote stands at 52 per cent, with 48 per cent in favour of Scotland going it alone. This is the highest level of Yes support to be recorded by an independently commissioned opinion poll.

Polling analyst John Curtice confirms the trend and gives it a gender twist

..the gender gap matters. If we ignore those who do not yet know how they will vote, then Yes Scotland appear within a hair’s breadth of persuading a majority of men to support independence – across recent opinion polls an average of 48% of men indicated they would vote Yes. But just 37% of women who have made up their minds say they plan to do the same. Women account for 52% of the Scottish population aged 16 and over, so it is clear from these figures that unless the Yes campaign can persuade women to change their views in substantial numbers, a majority yes vote is likely to remain out of reach.

However, and perhaps fortunately for Yes Scotland, what polling figures also show is that women are less likely to have made up their minds about how they will vote in September. On average across the most recent opinion polls around one in five women say they remain undecided, compared with around one in eight men.

Today the old lion king of Scottish politics joins the No campaign at last with a contribution about how the ageing population of Scots benefit greatly from sharing the cost burden of pension contributions with the English. Problem is , Gordon Brown’s is mainly another negative and it hardly makes the heart sing does it?

Scotland pays 8% of UK National Insurance but receives “upwards of 9%” of the benefits

the “extra benefit” Scotland receives in terms of pensions (the gap between contributions and returns) will rise from £425m to £700m per year over the next 20 years

the UK will “underwrite” Scotland’s estimated £100bn public sector pensions bill. He will say this is 10% of the UK total – while Scotland has just 8% of the UK population

it would cost about £1bn for Scotland to administer the first years of a separate pensions and benefits system once IT costs were included – which Mr Brown will say “makes no sense”

Mr Brown will say it is “fairer and better” for the UK’s “faster-rising” working-age population to cover the cost of the rising number of elderly people in Scotland.

So, do you follow all that?

Hugo Rifkind, the witty Times columnist and son of  wishful thinking Malcolm is the latest London based Scot to lament the rise and rise of nationalism (£) and the trend in the polls.

Scottish nationalism doesn’t make me angry. It only makes me sad. It will go on making me sad whether the “yes” vote turns out to be 40 per cent or 60 per cent. Because, as we all know really, an independent Scotland would be mostly fine. Poorer than now, perhaps, both culturally and economically, but no great disaster. But more damaging than its prospect, for all of us, is the fact that so many want it. Say the polls ossify roughly where they are now and independence loses by a 10 per cent margin. That’s still more than four out of every ten in Britain’s largest minority who wanted out. What sort of a victory is that?

Nationalism is a dangerous affair. It breaks things and they are things not easy to fix. What the referendum has broken already is a consensus that was utterly and vitally British. It was both a product of three centuries of union and its cause. It gave us the multiculturalism that has forged our post-Empire identity and is the faith on which the United Kingdom was built. It is the core idea that people who want different things can still get along.

In the end, obviously, I hope it fails. From a British perspective, it’s a terrible failure that it even began.

This  passive sentiment needs to turned into a positive appeal to Scottish hearts. Counting the beans doesn’t seem to be cutting it.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London