I recently spent ten days in Glasgow. My intention was to pick up the vibe on the YES side in my native city with particular emphasis on the Fifth Estate and the unofficial YES campaign.
I found that there was plenty of it and on day one of my trip I was pulled into a voter registration stall in Buchanan Street in the city centre. It had been set up by some university students and they were all YES voters.
This voter registration effort was entirely unofficial and impromptu. They just wanted to do something.
I had not expected this groundswell and, according to Robin McAlpine of the Commonweal I had arrived “just as it started to get interesting”.
The 41 year old political strategist grew up in an SNP household, but was once the Press Officer of George Robertson MP who went on to be the head of NATO.
Sitting in the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow McAlpine calmly stated to me during a lengthy interview that the YES side would win. Well of course he would say that.
The YES and NO sides had been slugging it out with the Unionist side in the lead in every poll until today.
I met Ivan McKee of ‘Business for Scotland’ at my first presser, which was live streamed , and it launched a leaflet warning of the bad stuff that might happen if people voted NO.
I put to them that this could be seen as the YES campaign going negative. Of course they demurred, but then they would.
Ivan and I discussed that for some people in Northern Ireland someone called Ivan wanting to break up the United Kingdom was a difficult one for them to grasp.
He stated that if such a Garden Centre visiting person lived in Scotland then they would almost certainly vote YES. The interesting thing about the Yes side of the campaign is the lack of an ethnic edge.
There is no blood and soil. The only tribal buttons that are being pushed are on the No side.
Wartime memories of “beating Hitler” were recently referenced by David Cameron and the Orange Order is marching the week end before the referendum takes place.
For the brethren this IS about blood and soil. The constitutional issue in Scotland will be settled if the No campaign wins a crushing victory.
At time of writing that seems unlikely. The Yes side think they can win, but of course they have to say that. When I was in Scotland I sensed that the NO side were not behaving like they believed in their lead or that it would hold.
Today the YouGov Poll put the YES side in the lead. Not by much, but it could be a psychological tipping point.
Women had been polling as being heavily on the NO side. However a massive PR own goal was scored when I was there when this TV advert, created by a London agency, was mocked and parodied on social media.
The advert went viral, but not in the way that the Better Together would have wished for. Robbie Dinwoodie, a veteran Scottish political correspondent with the Herald, told me unequivocally that “something is happening”.
That something seems to be the engagement of sections of Scottish society that had heretofore been disenfranchised either for legal reasons or by way of social exclusion. The poor and the young have become engaged in the political process.
Sean O’Connor of Generation Yes told me that 16 and 17 year olds-voting for the first time-were heavily in favour of independence.
Complete with his Palestinian wrist band I thought of anyone called Sean O’Connor from my generation (I was born in the 1950s) would have a very different view of Scotland becoming independent.
People don’t change much, but generations do. Change just might be coming to Scotland. There are actually many YES campaigns and together, according to McAlpine, they’ve knitted into a movement that will endure and continue even if there is a NO victory.
Perhaps he is right. If he is then change will come to Scotland. Only the timescale is debatable.
I am back in Scotland on the week of IndyRef and I will be one of Slugger’s guys in the count centre at Ingleston.
This could get historic…
Phil is an author,blogger, freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland. He is an active member of the NUJ with a special interest in online journalism. He was also a constintuency organizer for the SNP in Glasgow Shettleston constituency in the 1987 UK General election. He was also the secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Celtic League during that time. A journalist with An Phoblacht from 1999- 2006 his work under the pen name “Mick Derrig” covered a wide range of topics.