Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten reasons to be optimistic about a Yes to independence in 2014

Unlike so many of our friends in the London media, I don't claim to have a crystal ball handy, and therefore I wouldn't be surprised by either a Yes or No outcome in September. We're in for a campaign that will be thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. But as we reach the eve of referendum year (crikey) it's time for strictly positive thinking only. So here are my top ten reasons for feeling optimistic about a Yes to independence in 2014...

1) The Tories are worried. Just a couple of days ago, the Sunday Times reported that David Cameron's campaign consultant Lynton Crosby believes that the polls are wrong and that a Yes vote is not only possible, but likely. OK, there's probably a bit of kidology at play here (like a rugby team coming to Murrayfield and saying that 'Scotland must be the favourites at home'), but there's also likely to be at least an element of truth in it, otherwise they wouldn't be taking the risk of talking the Yes campaign up.

2) The polls. Even if we assume that the polls are not understating the support for Yes (and that's a very big if, as already noted), they're still nowhere near as favourable for No as the London media have collectively convinced themselves. This is a truth that No campaigners on Twitter don't like to hear, so let's remind them of it once again - even on the current snapshot of opinion which could easily change, the polls are not actually showing a majority against independence. The average No vote is just 48.8%, meaning that the majority of voters in Scotland are either in favour of independence or are undecided. The Yes campaign have also undoubtedly closed the gap somewhat since the publication of the White Paper, as even Professor John Curtice has accepted.

3) The strength of Scottish national identity. There was some evidence in the two Quebec independence referendums that people's responses to questions relating to national identity were a better early predictor of how they would vote than their responses in polls to the actual referendum question. Most surveys suggest that a majority of the Scottish population regard themselves as either 'Scottish not British' or 'more Scottish than British'. (Admittedly, the preference for a Scottish identity seems to have fallen back a little over the last decade, but it's still a very clear majority.)

4) Alistair Carmichael isn't as good as they expected. Frankly he isn't as good as I expected either - I thought he would at least prove to be a marginal improvement on Michael "007" Moore, but if anything he's even less impressive. Realistically, they're stuck with him for the duration now, because yet another change would look like blind panic. But what do they do with him? Is it really credible to 'shield' your Secretary of State for Scotland during a referendum on Scottish independence? I doubt if allowing David Mundell to regularly deputise will be much of a help either.

5) Alistair Darling isn't as good as they expected. The bad news is that they aren't necessarily stuck with him, but don't worry, because...

6) Some of Darling's Tory critics think it would be a good idea to replace him with Jeremy Hunt. I'll just say that again to allow the enormity of it to sink in - they think the No campaign would have a better chance of winning if it was headed by JEREMY HUNT. Is there some kind of petition of encouragement that we can sign?

7) The number of prominent Labour figures supporting independence is increasing. With former Labour MP Dennis Canavan, former Labour leader of Strathclyde Regional Council Sir Charles Gray, and former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow Alex Mosson all openly campaigning for a Yes vote, the message is gradually getting through to traditional Labour voters that support for independence is not some kind of heresy against their political culture. In fact, it's the only means by which that political culture can possibly survive and flourish. Even if just 30% of Labour voters were to come to that obvious conclusion, it could prove sufficient.

8) There are also suddenly a few chinks in the hitherto monolithic Tory opposition to independence, with former Tory MSP Nick Johnston coming out for a Yes vote, and with the launch of the centre-right, pro-independence Wealthy Nation campaign headed by former Tory parliamentary candidate Michael Fry. Although the Conservative vote in Scotland is small, it's not non-existent, and up to now the Yes campaign have found it particularly difficult to win much support from that direction. Even if Wealthy Nation and their fellow travellers could attract a modest percentage of Tory voters, that might be worth as much as an extra 1% for Yes overall.

9) The No campaign seem to think they're fighting the AV referendum again. I can't think of any other plausible explanation for their self-styled 'Project Fear' approach of relentless negativity. But the scare stories in the 2011 referendum only worked as well as they did because the electorate didn't give a monkey's about electoral reform, and couldn't be bothered applying any critical thinking to the silly claims that were being made about babies dying so the Alternative Vote could live. This time, the No campaign's attack lines will be directed against the country that we all love, and its capacity to govern itself. So yes, voters will be offended and provoked into asking some very awkward questions, not least of which will be 'what is the No campaign's alternative prospectus?'

10) 'If you vote No you are voting for David Cameron and a Tory government' is a devastating line, because it's true. It's also a negative message, so may have to be used very sparingly, but nevertheless that could well be enough to get under people's skins.


  1. There are enough Tory voters to make combining 8 and 10 into "Voting No makes it more likely you'll have Ed Miliband and Ed Balls running things for you". Certainly not for everyone, but every vote counts.

  2. Sadly that works both ways as voting yes makes it more likely we'll be run by Johann Lamont and Iain Gray.


    Only kidding.

  3. We could have so much fun with no 6...

    Where do I sign?

  4. "believes that the polls are wrong"
    I don't think the polls are anywhere near what will be the final result. I think the BritNats expected the YES/SNP to come out fighting and for the campaign to become a rammy which would turn people against the whole Indy Ref thing, but the wily YES/SNP just let the Project Fear nonsense run off its back and allowed it to show up the anti-Scottish feelings at the heart of the NO campaign. The constant repetition of smear, fear nonsense has had the opposite effect to that desired.It now incredible.
    The NO campaign has fired its biggest guns, the Olympics, the Jubilee, Project Fear all to no avail. And they do not have boots on the ground like the YES/SNP campaign. So NO needs to re-group and come out with a new more positive message and we will have to fight like hell to win a YES vote. And NO still has one big ace up its sleeve, ie, a credible GOOD DevoMax proposal which could well turn the tide in NO's favour.

  5. Anytime the Scottish people have had a chance to vote for more power, we have said Yes. I can't see that changing.
    The actual referendum question is powerful on an emotional level. Not many folk will say No to it. I'm fairly confident that there will be a large Yes majority.
    If it is allowed to happen is a different story.

  6. "If it is allowed to happen is a different story."
    Any attempt to thwart the democratic will of the Scottish people and believe me, the sh*t will REALLY hit the fan!

  7. Brilliant last post of the year, James.

    I'll sign up for Hunt.

    It shows, does it not, how completely out of touch, nay deranged, these Tory MPs are.

    OK, Hunt may be at least partly Scottish, but that's his only qualification.

    I wouldn't want to put them off making the change, but I'm going to take a punt that no one at the top of the Tory party reads this blog (je m'excuse if I'm bang out of line and Osborne is at this very moment perusing this with what passes for care in his world, the better to get to the bottom of the Nat mind).

    A super-rich privileged Tory whose accent is English, who holds an English post in the government and who at least gives the impression of being a lightweight in everything he does is just what we want.

    Jeremy for Alistair's job... Oh yes.

  8. smerral
    Unfortunately it already is happening. Funded by Westminster and administered by the MSM,and MI5.

  9. Don't forget the potentially most powerful message which could be given to Scottish voters; Maggie would want you to vote 'No'.