If you had not heard already, a new YouGov poll on Scottish independence has been released for today’s Sunday Times.
The poll shows the Yes campaign has taken the lead for the first time in this long campaign, just when it needed to. Yes now have a 2 point lead, with 51% saying they would vote for independence in 10 days time, while 49% say they would vote to remain as part of the union.
It is easy to forget, but this poll is only of 1,028 people, and so is hardly a mirror image of the overall opinion across the country. Nevertheless, collectively the polls have shown Yes to have been gathering momentum, and it is unsurprising that they have taken the lead.
What this does is tells no camp to be complacent. Alistair Darling has said a number of times that they will not accept victory until September the 19th. However, some of those in Westminster have been quoted as being “quietly confident” that Scotland will vote to remain in the UK.
Today’s poll will certainly be a sledgehammer of a wake-up call to those at Westminster that Scots really are not pleased with the current status of the UK.
For me, the campaigns are like chalk and cheese. Yes has a very clever plan: keep Salmond out of the picture, and let Scots decide. Salmond is not a fool; he knows people outwith SNP voters dislike him. I have had this confirmed to me by people at the pub, who say they are not voting for independence because they dislike Alex. Poor Alex, but we will come to this point later.
On the other hand, Better Together is a totally elitist looking campaign. Even from the view of people who are on the fence, they see the pro-Union camp as being run by Darling, Cameron, and Gordon Brown. If there is anything Better Together would not want to happen is be branded as elitist and out-of-touch.
Now the ugly side of Better Together is coming out, too. Whereas previously we saw cross-party co-operation, we now have Gordon Brown saying the Tories are to blame, and Ed Miliband reportedly being quoted as saying there would be guards placed along the Scottish border.
Is this what Better Together need right now? In-fighting? Is this what will happen in the event of a “No” vote? Will we see the parties actually co-operate to provide Scotland with more power?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, stated on this morning’s Andrew Marr Show that “within the next few days” there will be a “plan of action” to provide Scotland with more powers. With that in mind, it is interesting that Whitehall sources, according to the BBC, have stated “no detailed power package has been agreed”.
The problem for the unionists is they are being viewed with suspicion. They are seen as having other motives, and rightly so. In May next year, the UK will go to the polls to vote in the next General Election. What is the likely outcome? Despite polls showing Labour to be ahead, it is only a marginal lead. In my opinion, it will likely be that we will see a greater swing to the right, with the current upsurge in UKIP popularity. Albeit the Tories have ruled out a coalition agreement with the UK Independence Party, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg writes in the Sunday Mail that they “must give Clegg’s job to Farage…and get in bed with UKIP”.
Mr Rees-Mogg writes that Farage “would be a much preferable Deputy Prime Minister to any true Conservative than Nick Clegg”.
So, as you can imagine, Labour have some work to do…and this may be another reason why Yes has skipped ahead.
Ed Miliband came to Scotland last week with an absolutely terrible message: “vote Labour next year, and we can guarantee more power for Scotland”. I do not think he said those exact words, but the message was clear. Vote Labour? Of course, vote Labour! Labour have 41 seats in Scotland, compared to the Conservatives’ 1. Scotland has voted for the left for years and has seen many years under a Tory government.
Miliband is an interesting one. At times I think of voting Labour myself. He appears cool, intelligent, in-touch, and capable leader; other times he is just dismal. When he visited Scotland he was up to fight, as I say, a General Election, not a referendum. I can guarantee there have been many occasions when the Better Together side have held their head in there hands thinking, “please stop talking”. If this had been a General Election campaign, the party who had the same luck as Better Together would be bottom of the polls. Lucky for them we are voting for a concept, not a party.
Speaking of times of embarrassment for the pro-union camp, they will have to turn off all forms of media when Gordon Brown shows up. Brown is not popular. He was an unpopular PM, and his involvement in the #indyref cannot be doing them any favours.
If he was smart, he would notice this and do what Salmond has done. As I said earlier, Salmond has stayed on the sidelines. He has been there, pushing the campaign, but he is avoiding the spotlight. This is a very clever move, as he notices he is unpopular, and so pushes the grassroots campaign, allows Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take the floor, and keeps out of the way.
There is someone who has been phenomenally quiet of late, that being Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael. Interestingly, the last notable news story he was involved in was his admitting he would leave the UK government and join “Team Scotland” in the event of a “Yes” vote. Better Together clearly thought it was best to silence him before he got too much attention.
This poll is a huge boost for the campaign, but we must take a step back. It is not indicative of the whole country, though it does support the trend. Another factor we must consider is the “F**k it!” Effect. Some believe people are planning to vote “No”, but may just vote the opposite on the day, thinking “F**k it!”
All we can say is it will be tight. Very tight. I will have the pleasure of working with the BBC on results night in Grangemouth, reporting the results of the count as a freelance reporter. Excited does not cut it. It will be an incredible night, and a long one too, as Scotland decides whether to stay with the union, or make itself in to a truly independent country.