Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Just days to go in one of the longest political campaigns in history

By Bill White

We're now in the last days of the Scottish referendum campaign – thus ending what must be one of the longest political campaigns in history.

The latest polls show the race is getting tighter, with the poll of polls showing the No campaign (that’s No to independence) still slightly ahead. However, the Yes campaign got a major boost last Sunday when the first ever poll to show them ahead was published by UK polling company YouGov. I’ve delved deeper into the YouGov research and some interesting patterns and trends emerge showing where the recent growth in the Yes campaign support is coming from.

In terms of the actual campaigns, the polls show that by two-to-one, Scots say the No campaign has been negative – and by the same margin, they feel ‘Yes Scotland’ has been generally positive. Perhaps as the latest YouGov poll shows this has led to the majority of younger under-40 votes now tending towards Yes. Younger voters tend to support and respond better to positive campaigns.

Whatever the final result, there is no doubt that the No campaign will now be dubbed a failure. One crucial error was putting too much emphasis on the currency issue, in terms of trying to frighten the Scots about being excluded from the pound. However, again the polls show that the vast majority of Scots voters don’t believe this will happen (ie exclusion from the pound), including a majority of No voters, and it’s hard to sell something that no-one believes in the first place!

The YouGov poll also shows that more women are tending towards Yes. This is interesting, as this has been one of the major problems the Yes campaign have had since the start. Women have been nervous about independence and have consistently broken approximately 70/30 for No, with men being approximately 60/40 in favour. However, are women now beginning to lose their fears of independence? Although the gender gap has narrowed, it hasn’t disappeared, but if the Yes campaign can get women to around 50/50, then that could be decisive in ensuring a narrow victory for the Yes campaign.

But whatever the final result will be on referendum day on the 18th of this month, many commentators and seasoned politicians, and apparently the Queen as well, are becoming worried as to what kind of Scotland will be left after this increasingly divisive and heated referendum debate is concluded.

If the polls are right, then it looks likely it will be a close result. The No camp has always been in front in the polls, and are still in front (albeit narrowly now) but remember if the Yes camp (ie Alex Salmond & Co.) can get at least 43-45% then they’ll be able to re-ignite the debate and go for another referendum in 7-10 years time. This is what happened in Quebec with their independence debate still carrying on after several referendums and with another one on the horizon – Thus leading to the term the Never-endum Referendum. So even if ‘No’ win this Scottish referendum, will that stop the debate? – Probably not, particularly if it’s a close result. Like Quebec, maybe Scotland is heading towards a Never-endum Referendum. Referendums are not ‘winner take all’ games ie 51% is a win – Like all politics, it’s much more subtle than that.

Bill White is Managing Director of LucidTalk, polling partners to the Belfast Telegraph

Scottish Independence Vote further reading

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