It is just one month to go before Scotland heads to the polling stations to decide whether to become an independent country or not.
As such, the campaigns are turning up the heat, with the No side saying it will be contacting voters three times, and all undecided voters four times before the 18th September (how they really plan on doing this I do not know. I think I have received one single leaflet from the unionists since the campaign began).
With such a short time to go, the polls have again made a significant swing, even in the last week. An ICM poll for the Scotland on Sunday put Yes at 38% and No at 47%. However, Yes has gained 4 points, No 2, and the undecided vote has fallen to 14%. Furthermore, YouGov’s latest poll shows the No campaign’s lead fall from 20% to 14%.
But how much can we really trust these polls? I have long speculated that perhaps the No voters are just not as outgoing as Yes, hence why the number of “Yes” poster, stickers, banners, car stickers, and boards appear to greatly outnumber their opposition, and yet No still tops the charts.
I wondered about this on a recent drive to Fort William. I was astounded by the number of Yes paraphernalia covering the road side on the way up North-West. Banners, posters, flags, stickers on road signs, all suddenly popping up everywhere in the final few weeks of campaigning.
Whenever I’ve told my family or friends about recent poll results, and how the situation stands, I normally get the same reply: “But no one ever asked me”.
Of course, I cannot say this, as I am a member of YouGov and fill in their surveys. However, I had to be politically active enough to register on YouGov, and then take the time to actually complete the surveys (and collect 5000 points, which I have now traded in for a free £50 – bonus!) So what is the likelihood of people from the central highlands, the North of Scotland, or the islands of having their say in these polls? Not too high I would imagine.
Therefore, how much store can we set by these polls? Can we really say that they are wholly representative? Of course not; no survey ever is. I remember in Modern Studies being taught that, in order for a study to be credible, it had to survey over 1000 people. This would mean that these surveys are valid, but perhaps if they were carried out in another area they could arguably be unreliable.
So we cannot set too much store by the polls, or the pundits either. Look at the aftermath of the televised debate between Salmond and Darling. The media (both print, televised and social) said Salmond had lost the opportunity, and had not been as convincing as his opposite number.
Why, then, have the polls taken a swing? I would always say we cannot use televised leaders debates as a means to seeing who will win a referendum. General election – perhaps. However, even the Presidential debates in the USA arguably do not have a long-term impact on the election outcome when you look at the polls across the whole campaign.
When I vote, I will not be voting for Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling. I am voting for or against a concept. Do I want to live in an independent country, or do I want to remain in the union?
This is not a question of who can get the most one liners, petty insults or fancy analogies across to a TV audience; rather it is for us to decide on a concept. Why we needed a televised debate I do not know. Perhaps as human beings we like a bit of excitement. We enjoy seeing people battling it out.
What was most disappointing about the debate was the number of ridiculous questions asked. Questions answered previously, and questions about education, housing, agriculture and health, which are all devolved matters anyway, and would not be negatively affected by independence.
Today we received our poll cards through the letter box. I know how I am voting. I have read, listened, and watched all I need; in fact, all I ever want to. Those who say “I don’t know enough about it, so I am voting ‘No'” need to get their head out of the sand. There is a wealth of opinions, theories, answers out there for you to lose yourself in.
There is always going to be uncertainty, and for that reason we cannot take anything as fact. Together or independent there will always be uncertainty.
Whatever you do, don’t sit at home on the 18th September. Go out and vote for what you either feel or think to be the right thing to do.
The deadline for registration is the 2nd September. Visit http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/registering-to-vote-and-the-electoral-register to register today.