September 8, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
The galloping hooves of an impending constitutional crisis got much louder yesterday morning with the publication of the first official opinion poll that puts the “Yes” campaign in Scotland in the lead. YouGov have them at 51% compared to 49% for the “No” campaign. Further significance lies with the fact that previous YouGov polls have been more negative for the “Yes” campaign than other polls, so at times they have had to discount the outcome. Well, they don’t have to discount it now, and neither should any of us in the UK.
The reasons for the momentum that Alex a Salmond has gained are many, and include the inability of the leader of the “Better Together” campaign, Alistair Darling, to connect with the voters in any way like the way Salmond has done. This was particularly stark in their second debate, in which Darling seemed to feel that a circular argument about currency would be more effective than any attempt to lay out the positives of the Union. It has also been the fault of the other major political figures. Gordon Brown, who may be more popular up North than he is down South, still finds it hard to to anything more than bash the Tories in his speeches. Ed Miliband’s latest contribution was to talk of the border guards that would have to be placed along Hadrian’s wall if the split happens. Nick Clegg can get barely any traction up in Scotland anyway. The constant promises of more powers to the Scottish government if the Scottish people vote “No” are being met with the response of “why don’t we have these powers already? Why did we have to threaten to leave to get them?”
Then there’s David Cameron, who thought he should stay out of the debate to stop Salmond painting the referendum as being on independence for Scotland versus being ordered around by posh Tory England scum. In fact, Cameron’s worst mistake was in the negotiations surrounding the referendum. One can only assume that he thought simply offering the referendum was enough and the “No” vote would be overwhelming. He could have had the referendum a long time ago before the SNP government had established themselves rather than just after the nation-unifying Commonwealth Games and on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. He could have put a threshold on what was needed to win a referendum on such an important issue, for instance that 50% of the electorate had to vote “Yes” to win, (ie 62.5% “Yes” vote on the expected 80% turnout), but he didn’t and if the result is like in the poll then 40% of the electorate could take Scotland out of the union. He could have insisted on the question being “Should Scotland stay as part of the UK”, not “Should Scotland be an independent country”. He could have not held the referendum at all, despite the SNP’s mandate. What did he have to lose in Scotland anyway? But instead, he we are. If it is a “Yes” vote, meaning Cameron has presided over the loss of Scotland, I wouldn’t be surprised if David Cameron goes the same way as Lord North did immediately after losing the American colonies. Yes, we could have a new a Prime Minister much sooner than we think.
So where do the “Better Together” campaign go from here. Well, first of all I would get Ed Miliband up in Scotland constantly referring to himself as the next Prime Minister. It is likelier to happen than it was a while ago due to the revolt on the Tory right. That would go some way to neutralise the constant use by Salmond of the fact that there are more pandas that Tory MPs in Scotland yet they live under Tory rule. Then I would bring forward the repeal of the “bedroom tax”, which is on its way after the recent vote at Westminster. That way another grenade Salmond keeps on throwing gets the pin put back in.
But more than that, what is needed is a proper love bomb from the rest of the UK to be sent to Scotland. Everybody who wants them to remain part of the union, and I mean normal people, not politicians and celebrities, should be telling every Scottish person they know about it. Launch balloons from Hadrian’s Wall, use social networking, go up there and have a rally, whatever it takes. For the past year, Alex Salmond has been saying that this is the Scottish people’s last chance to break free. For the next two weeks, it is our last chance to beg them not to.