With the campaign to defeat independence not due to be launched formally until next Monday, the independence campaign could have used this time to its advantage.
It’s roughly a month since Alex Salmond launched the Yes to Independence campaign in Edinburgh, with a pledge that a million Scots would sign a pledge supporting the efforts to see Scotland an independent nation.
With the campaign to defeat independence not due to be launched formally until next Monday, Salmond et al should have had free reign over the past four weeks to build that treasured possession in politics, namely momentum.
Instead, we have witnessed what could possibly be the start of a new omnishambles with the campaign lurching from one problem to another, with splits across the movement.
Firstly, just days after the campaign launch, Yes Scotland was forced to make changes to its website, after it emerged that those who were merely following the campaign’s twitter feed were being listed as full blown supporters.
Then, following Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s assertions that Scotland would have a guaranteed voice around the Bank of England table as part of their plans to retain sterling, the Treasury made quite clear that this was a no-no, explaining in a statement:
“Scotland using the pound through a sterlingisation mechanism… would have no say over its own monetary policy as set by the Bank of England.”
This was followed soon after by the sight and sound of Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie deciding to withdraw his party from the formal Yes campaign in protest at how dominated it had all become by the first minister to the determinant of other voices.
Yesterday came the news that, and I kid you not, on the advice of someone called Claire Howell, a psychology consultant who is apparently a long-standing adviser to the SNP, Alex Salmond has urged his MSPs to stop using the term “independence” and instead speak of an “independent Scotland”, which is apparently more appealing to the voters.
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And today comes the bizarre news that the SNP MP Angus Robertson, Campaign Director of “Yes Scotland”, has used an interview with the German magazine Weiner Zeitung to claim that he is not in fact a nationalist.
Asked whether the Queen would remain head of state over an independent Scotland, he argued:
“Yes, I think so, in the context of the Commonwealth. I believe that our overall relationship with England would be a better one: Scots are open and friendly people, we are cosmopolitans – the German translation of my party’s name makes me angry: we aren’t nationalists.”
And the results of all this? One look at the Times this morning will make grim reading for the nationalists, with polling results compiled by Ipsos Mori for the paper showing (£) that 35% said they would support independence, down 4% since January when the very same question was asked. Those favouring the status quo stood at 55%, 5% up during the same period.
What is more, although 53% of respondents said that they were still “satisfied” with the first minister, this remains 5% down from January with the level of dissatisfaction with the job Mr Salmond is doing having risen from 36% to 40% now. Whilst the Yes campaign has sought to dismiss the findings as just one of many which have shown different things, they will be acutely aware of Scottish Labour’s assertion that the more the people of Scotland hear about independence the less they like it.
As Mark Diffley, Research Director at Ipsos MORI. has said:
“This poll reinforces the task ahead for the ‘Yes’ to independence campaign. Despite a high profile launch of their campaign, the public appears unconvinced as yet and support for independence has fallen. The difficulty faced by the campaign is reinforced by the fall in the personal approval rating for the first minister.
“He remains Scotland’s most prominent politician and well liked party leader but his rating has now fallen below what we saw in the immediate aftermath of last year’s election victory and returned to the levels we were recording in 2010.”