Before we go anywhere, let us get one thing straight: I am a staunch ‘Yes’ supporter. OK. Glad we got that one settled.
If you had not worked that one out already if you have been following this blog for anytime, you need to take a look back.
Nevertheless, with my current stance in mind, it may be a surprise that this post will be a critique of the Yes campaign. Not the campaign itself, but my fellow ‘Yes’ voters, who may not be doing the campaign any favours.
I have attended a number of independence debate events, from the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow, to the #stirdebate between BT and Yes, including a few other small events here and there.
What has been a startling trend in the events where there is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ represented is just how anti-UK the audience’s have been. At the University of Stirling’s #stirdebate, there was an evident support for Yes Scotland. It was a whitewash; quite depressing really for anyone who is voting to remain within the UK in September’s referendum. Better Together then held a meeting the following evening, and about ten people showed up.
Furthermore, in my regular commute between home and university, I have seen a distinctly lopsided trend in recent weeks. Amusingly I have seen large “Yes” posters and stickers plastered across road and town signs. On top of that, I have seen a noticeable increase in the number of ‘Yes’ stickers on people’s back windows of cars. It totally outnumbers the number of ‘UK OK’ stickers for sure.
So, one would conclude the Yes campaign is running away with it; away ahead in the polls, and the result in September was highly predictable. Well, you would be wrong.
Despite a trend in the polls showing a consistent rise in ‘Yes’ support in the past few months, recent polls suggest a gradual levelling out in opinion.
The Scotsman published an article stating that a poll for Channel 4 News showed that 58% of voters planned to back ‘No’, while ‘Yes’ was at 42% (when don’t knows are excluded). This contrasts greatly to a poll by ICM just a month before which put the mark at 52-48%.
What we have seen all the while, however, is ‘No’ being ahead, regardless by the amount. ‘Yes’ are still to overtake them in the polls.
So, why are the polls sitting in such stark contrast to what you see out and about?
I would suggest that BT supporters are actually shy. Forgive me if you are a proud ‘No’ voter, but I feel you might be taking one for the team. The cause of this, I think, is the strident nationalism which poses a great risk to the Yes Scotland campaign.
It takes a strong passion to outwardly declare your support for a political campaign, and publicly display your voting intention. People with ‘Yes’ stickers on their car, and who want to make a point by turning up at debating events, are obviously proud to support the Yes campaign.
I think this puts people off, and makes those who intend to vote against independence a little awkward. They do not want to have the finger pointed at them and asked “What? Do you hate your country?” by a hairy man in an kilt (excuse the stereotype). For this reason, I believe ‘No’ supporters prefer to stay at home, keep their vote to themselves, and wait patiently to exercise their right at the ballot box come September.
What this does is create a very one-sided audience at debates, filled with Yes supporters, or slightly undecided voters.
If Yes Scotland does not act and ask its strongest supporters to ‘keep the heid’, and be patient, then I fear they may be putting off voters who do not feel so strongly about independence.
Yes has done a great job so far of being very open to everyone, and pressed that it is not just an SNP campaign, rather it branches across a number of parties; such as Labour, and the Greens.
However, Yes have a much better ground campaign; volunteers organising events, setting up stalls in town centres, and posting the ‘Yes’ newspapers and leaflets through the letter box vastly outnumbers Better Together’s campaign. In fact, I have not seen a single BT leaflet through the door (unless you count the EU election leaflets from the Tories saying “Vote No to independence”). I would suggest to the No campaign to up their game if the want to stay ahead in the race to the finish line; the date is September 18th 2014.