One piece of advice you sometimes hear tennis commentators giving is that if you get your opponent break point down, the first thing you should do is go for a little walk. Let the reality of his predicament sink in for a while. What he wants to do is very, very quickly get a big serve in, and forget the crisis ever happened. If you don't need to even rely on your racquet skills to prevent him from doing that, what is there to lose?
It seems to me that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government borrowed from the same book of tactics when deciding on a long timescale for the independence referendum. You could tell from the word go that anti-independence activists sensed the danger, even as they failed to come up with a convincing explanation for why the tactic was supposedly illegitimate. (The faintly pathetic whine of "does Mr Salmond really have to BORE us for the next three years?" was the best they could do.) We're beginning to see clear evidence that their fears were well-founded. Alex Mosson's decision to become the latest Labour heavyweight from west-central Scotland to come out in favour of independence might well not have happened if Salmond had opted for a snap referendum during the honeymoon period after the 2011 election win. In that scenario, instinctive tribalism could easily have set in across the parties, and the vote would have been over before a great many people had even thought the issues through properly. As it is, everyone has had - and will continue to have - ample opportunity to take in the reality of the choice that lies before Scotland, and some interesting and unexpected things are happening as a result. Below the surface of the headline opinion poll numbers (which, as we've discussed many times before, are nowhere near as favourable for the No side as the anti-independence media have convinced themselves), there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that any gradual movement going on is from No to undecided to Yes, rather than in the opposite direction. The ever-fickle Alex Massie (I mean fickle in terms of his assessment of the state of play, rather than his politics) makes precisely that point in his Spectator blog post of a couple of days ago.
Massie also highlights the other advantage of a long campaign for the Yes side, which is that their opponents have a much more limited repertoire than they do. Project Fear have shot the bolt too early - the public have been exposed to so many scare stories now that they're beginning to respond with a disbelieving laugh when they hear the latest claim that the Black Death would return to Scotland after independence, or whatever. That wouldn't have been the case in a quick campaign - witness the outrageously daft scare stories that voters fell for hook, line and sinker during the AV referendum (and that, I'm sorry to say, includes members of my own family).
To return to Alex Mosson, although there are no downsides to his decision, I can't help wondering if it would have been even better if he'd stayed within the Labour Party while campaigning for Yes, as I gather Sir Charles Gray plans to do. It's ironic, isn't it? In normal circumstances, we as SNP supporters would be delighted if anyone 'saw the light' and departed from Labour. But in this campaign, what will be even more valuable is the normalisation of the sight of current, card-carrying Labour members campaigning for independence. We're getting there.