You could not be blamed for thinking these days that the Better Together campaign seriously want to lose this referendum.
Albeit the latest polls consistently show the “No” side to have a lead over Team Yes – one for the Daily Mail showing Yes at 47% and No ahead at 53% – there is an overwhelming similarity between the polls: the gap is narrowing. Better Together’s lead has been cut by more than half from 14 to just 6 points.
With just three weeks to go, Yes will be doing all it can to swing the remaining 11% who are undecided to their side.
Nevertheless, it is a huge surprise that Yes are not already claiming victory.
To provide some background, I would like to direct towards a recent documentary on BBC Two titled “Mind Games”. The programme looked at the psychological battle that is currently being waged in order to capture as many hearts and minds as possible in the final weeks of campaigning.
What I found most intriguing about the programme was the interview with American Professor, Drew Westen. During the 2004 Presidential campaign is the USA between Kerry and Bush, he put subjects into an MRI scanner, to see how they would react to political messages. In this programme however, he was shown an advert by both Better Together and Yes Scotland.
His analysis was interesting, and rang true with my own (which is always a pleasing thought).
First was Better Together, which he critiqued by saying the message of staying together was far too obscure in the first portion, lack of clear messaging throughout the ad, and generally did not seem overwhelmed. Then it was Yes’ turn, and the reaction could not have been more different: clear messages, clever use of words and imagery, all in all very well constructed.
This should come as no surprise, as the SNP’s media team are one of the best in the world. Now, I am unsure if they also make Yes Scotland’s adverts, but the theme is generally consistent.
Social media went into a frenzy following the new advert, which showed a middle-age, middle class woman, sitting in a kitchen with a cup of tea in hand. She spoke of how she was unsure of which way to vote, but after talking for over two minutes, she finally decided she would vote “No”.
The advert could not have been worse. Grey kitchen, echo-y atmosphere, no music, and all she could talk about was the “uncertainty” of independence that “bothers” her so much.
Now, I may be mistaken, but were Better Together not being labelled as scaremongering and negative for this past year? It appears that all the woman in the advert could talk about was fear and negativity.
“I mean, could we keep the pound? That man on the TV seems to think so. ‘It’ll all be fine’, he says. Yeah right, I’ve heard that one before!”
And: “‘Oil will pay for it all’. So, you can rely on oil for everything can you?” She then goes on to mention how oil can’t pay for the hospital, children’s education, and pensions.
It is an extremely flawed advert, aimed at encouraging undecided women to vote against independence. Amusingly, the Guardian has written how the ad has actually encouraged many to go the other way and vote for independence. Brilliant.
There have also been a large number of criticisms based on stereotyping. The Independent writes how the campaign is ‘patronising’ towards women, who are depicted at the start as being out of touch with politics, and only concerned with her family having to “eat your cereal”.
If this was a General Election campaign, you can bet the party who ran this ad would be down the Swanny River.
There is even more bad news for the Unionists this week.
On top of poor advertisements, we are now seeing Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, a fact many will see as putting Britain on the edge of leaving the EU.
Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, defected to UKIP arguing the Prime Minister was not “serious about the change we need in Europe”. There is talk that more will turn to the euroskeptic party, but Tory MPs have reported “ruled out” any more defections.
Furthermore, with Farage being chosen to run for MP for South Thanet in next year’s General Election. Meanwhile, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced he will stand as a Tory MP next year, too.
However, the two scenarios have come to interesting cross-roads. If Douglas Carswell is re-elected in the upcoming by-election in Clacton, then UKIP will acquire their first seat in Westminster.
Writing on the Daily Telegraph blog, Peter Oborne states: “I believe that David Cameron should go down on his knees and beg Boris Johnson to stand as the Conservative Party’s candidate for Clacton in the coming by-election.”
He writes that this is due to the need for a charisma, flamboyancy, “intellectual agility” to help match Nigel Farage’s own personality traits.
How does this impact on Scottish independence? Well, we all know the saying that “there are more pandas than there are Tory MPs in Scotland” (I bet the SNP wanted the pandas just to have that line). Therefore, if it looks like down south is becoming increasingly right-wing, and moving down the road of separation from Europe, there is a chance Yes may see another boost in the polls.
Albeit the anti-indy side is ahead, it is evident that the next few weeks will be a dog fight right down to the line. The gap is narrowing, and unless fortunes pick up for Better Together, then they are running a real risk of losing this most fascinating of political battles.
Below are just some of the memes created by people on social media.