As we get closer to the crunch moment for the #IndyRef sides, it’s clear where the confidence is. Last night after a scrappy three a side encounter on STV, the two Blairs (Jenkins and McDougall) were both claiming victory.
Jenkins for the Yes keen to emphasise the emotional connection of their ringer, the actress Elaine C Smith with the audience, whilst McDougall pointed to Labour’s Kezia Dugdale for bringing home the policy beef.
This, in shorthand, is the difference between the two campaign. Yes has been incredibly successful in bringing a strong emotional charge to the proceedings (sometimes a little too strong), whereas No is trying to make a determined pitch to the head.
Alex Massie puts hammer to nail when he argues that in the Sturm und Drang of the long, very long in Scotland, campaign people are tiring of listening to the policy detail…
There is a sense, I think, in which many voters have tired of the endless statistical wrangling that’s supposed to predict – and prove! – the future one way or the other. If true, that’s a win for the Yes campaign since sidelining those concerns – particularly on the economy – opens a path to voters who quite like the idea of independence – the idea of Scotland! – but are nervous about how, or even whether, it might actually be accomplished.
From a Unionist perspective, it does not help that, in general, London has been useless. Even now Westminster seems more interested in the Clacton by-election than in the referendum that will decide the future stability and integrity of the United Kingdom. Viewed from North Britain, this seems desperately petty and small. There is, whether one likes it or not, a sense that perhaps they’re just not that into us. At the very least they appear to take us – and the result of the referendum – for granted. And this, naturally, cheers Yessers.
Then again, this can be a lose-lose situation for Unionists. London’s apparent indifference is galling but there are moments when you could be forgiven for thinking indifference is at least preferable to the ignorance – and indiscipline – shown by London-based politicians when they do speak about Scotland. Yes, Boris, that means you (though you are not the only guilty party).
Ah, calling London. Anyone there listening? Matthew Parris was back in October 2007, when he tentatively suggested…
A split, perhaps deliberately engineered, between the Scottish Tories and the Tories in the rest of the country would best serve Conservatism in Scotland (What I would call the Germany / Bavaria model), as otherwise English nationalism could be the accomplice of Scottish nationalism.
A Scottish and rest of the UK Conservative parties could be good for both, and there are plenty of areas where a Scottish Conservative party could act alone and in the interests of Scotland rather than the UK, so the final question is whether the Conservatives can successfully pursue an approach between what we have now and prospective Scottish independence.
Well, no one was listening, and it didn’t happen. Now not only are the Tories in UK Government are reduced to bit part players in the debate over the reduction of the UK to a rump state, but their great rivals in UKIP are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the departure of what they see as the grumpy and anti English Scots.
In February I rather vaingloriously declared Scotland’s current bid for independence dead, after the currency debate erupted.
As noted yesterday the current polling figures show now that the game is rather closer than back then. Mass voter registration campaigns have been ongoing to try to get previous non voters to the polls, almost exclusively on the
No Yes side.
Alan Renwick suggests there’s are now two key factors at play…
…reversion point reversal and the anti-establishment bandwagon.
Reversion point reversal relates to the fact that voters are generally risk-averse. The side of a referendum debate that can convince voters it can protect what voters most value about the status quo is likely to see its polling figures rise. In Scotland’s case, it seems pretty clear to an outside(-ish) observer that the uncertainties associated with independence are greater than those linked to staying in the UK.
But Alex Salmond and other Yes campaigners have been increasingly effective in arguing that, actually, independence is the best way to protect Scotland’s social model and its position as an open, friendly society within the European Union. Independence, says Salmond, will protect the NHS from the cutters and privatizers in Westminster. Independence, say pro-Yes businesspeople, will insulate Scotland from English isolationism in a future referendum on EU membership.
Though No campaigners have counterarguments to these points, they seem to have the additional problem that voters have grown so familiar with their arguments as to have become partly inured to them. Better Together have been banging on the same drums about currency, oil, and so on for months. When Alistair Darling returned to them in the televised debates, he was greeted with audible groans.
For what it’s worth, he thinks it will probably go No, if only because of the risk aversion factor. Like the woman on C4 News last night who told reporters she wants to say Yes, but is ashamed to admit she’s probably going to vote No.
This matters, not simply in the short term, but in the longer term too.
If its a Yes, the SNP will have pulled off something of a minor miracle (considering where the campaign had to start from). If it’s a No, then Unionist parties can thank the Oldies for their caution at leaving (rather than their commitment to) the United Kingdom.
And if it’s a tight No (as seems likely) another bite of the Independence cherry may come soon enough after to be delivered at the hands of Salmond’s current capable and highly likeable deputy Nicola Sturgeon at the head of an SNP whose grassroots have been firmly planted in many of the places where Labour once was the undisputed class champion.
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