The phoney war on Scottish independence is coming to an end

The phoney war of the Scottish independene referendum may be about to end, and the real war begin, reports Ed Jacobs.

The campaign to maintain Scotland’s position in the Union is reported to be preparing a weekend blitz this Saturday and Sunday, with events across every constituency in Scotland.

According to the Sunday Herald the “Better Together” campaign is planning to capitalise on the sense of British pride established following the Olympics. The paper’s Scottish political editor, Tom Gordon, revealed last weekend that 100,000 leaflets will be distributed making the case for retaining the Union.

They will include the message “We love Scotland”, and cover the shared history of the British Isles, including the pound – while stressing the danger of going it alone in a turbulent world economy.

Gordon quotes the leaflet as being likely to say:

“We don’t need uncertainty, instability, and barriers for our businesses. The UK is better placed than a separate Scotland or England to help our businesses find and win new orders across the world.

“In an uncertain economy, the UK is a source of strength for Scotland.”

Announcing the initiative in an email to supporters, Blair McDougall, the campaign director for Better Together, said:

“We want to kick this grassroots campaign into gear by having events not just in one or two towns, we want to bring Better Together to every town in Scotland. It is so important that we speak to people face to face about Independence.”

The initiative comes as Alex Salmond faced more headaches in the polls


See also:

Brown weighs in on Scottish independence 14 Aug 2012

Salmond’s summer slump continues 1 Aug 2012

Did the opening ceremony undermine the SNP’s attempts to break up the UK? 30 Jul 2012

Salmond must stop moving the goalposts on Scottish independence referendum 4 Jul 2012

Salmond’s independence campaign lurches from one problem to another 19 Jun 2012


Just weeks after YouGov polling for the Fabian Society saw a substantial drop in support for independence, the trend has continued with YouGov  polling for the Mail on Sunday revealing 60% of Scots now oppose independence, compared with only 27% who say they support the break up of the Union.

This is a huge fall from the 52% high watermark seen in 2006 and a 3-point fall since the Olympics started just three-and-a-half-weeks ago.

Similarly, ComRes polling for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror shows support for independence in Scotland at 31% compared with 49% against the idea.

Responding to the Mail on Sunday poll, chair of Better Together, Alistair Darling MP, said:

This latest poll shows that our message is getting through. Being a part of the United Kingdom represents the best of both worlds for our country. We have key decision making powers devolved to Holyrood as well as having the benefits of being a part of a larger country.

“However, the poll also shows that the majority of Scots want a single, straightforward yes or no question in the referendum. This news should surely swing it for the First Minister and his apparently indecisive Cabinet colleagues. This should be enough for them to stop the dithering and get the terms of this referendum sorted out.

“The SNP believe in separation. They promised a single question referendum in their manifesto.”

With the prime minister reported to be preparing to meet Alex Salmond next month to thrash out the terms of a referendum, Scotland on Sunday has revealed Westminster is preparing to concede to SNP demands a referendum be open to 16- and 17-year-olds and agree to the Scottish government setting both the timing of the referendum and the wording of a single question, provided it is accepted as fair by the Electoral Commission.

The paper’s political editor, Eddie Barnes, wrote:

“David Cameron is preparing to concede terms to Alex Salmond on the format of the independence referendum on condition that he gives voters a straight choice on whether or not to break away from the United Kingdom.

“Sources close to the negotiations between the two governments, which have been on-going throughout the summer, say UK ministers are now preparing to accept the SNP’s demand that 16- and 17-year-olds are allowed to take part in the proposed 2014 vote.

“In other key concessions, UK ministers will also agree to the Scottish government setting both the timing of the referendum and the wording of a single question, provided it is accepted as fair by the Electoral Commission.

“Talks between Scottish constitutional minister Bruce Crawford and Scotland Office minister David Mundell took place last week.

“The ‘red-line’ for the prime minister is that the final question put to voters in 2014 is a simple ‘yes-no’ on whether or not they want to back independence and create a new sovereign Scottish state.

“But that issue is likely to remain a major sticking point to the prospect of a deal as senior SNP figures say Salmond is still weighing up whether a middle-way option – more powers – should also be included on the ballot paper.

The pro-Union side will this week step up its call for a single ‘yes-no’ question, armed with a report commissioned by Scotland’s opposition parties. It is expected the paper, co-written by elections expert Professor Ron Gould, will set out the legal and constitutional complications of staging a referendum on independence while at the same time asking voters about more devolution.”

However, the question as to whether there should be a second referendum brings with it a warning from Iain MacWhirter, who told the Sunday Herald:

“It is impossible to say how many Scots will be minded to vote for independence out of frustration that they have been denied a vote on devolution max. But there will be some, to my certain knowledge – especially among Liberal Democrat voters, who are mystified at why their party, which has been committed to federalism for over 100 years, is so determined to ensure that the Scots have no chance to vote for it.

“Now, I’m not saying that Salmond has planned this all along. No-one, not even his closest supporters, fully understands the thinking of the first minister, who is a law unto himself. But the FM must have known that, by proposing the second question, he all but ensured that Labour Unionists would reject it, on the grounds that anything he proposes must be a Nat plot.

“Most Labour MPs believe that by forcing him to accept a single question they will shoot Salmond’s fox, destroy his morale, undermine his strength in the country. Give him a ‘bloody nose’ and kill nationalism stone dead. I wouldn’t bet on it.

“With a single question, the likelihood is that independence will lose, but not lose by a massive margin – perhaps 45% Yes to 55% No. That will be a setback for Salmond, of course, but it doesn’t mean that the SNP will be out of contention at Holyrood.

“He will go into the 2016 election calling on Scots to vote SNP to ensure that the Unionist parties adhere to those promises made by David Cameron and Alistair Darling of more power for Holyrood provided Scots vote No.

“The SNP was not elected in the first place because of its policy on independence, but in spite of it. And Salmond’s landslide victory in 2011 was a verdict on the performance of the minority administration and the feebleness of the Labour alternative. That hasn’t changed.

“And anyway, I wouldn’t write off the independence vote. Strange things can happen in a fast-moving campaign, and I wouldn’t rule out contrarian Scots voting Yes to independence to get a better devolution.”

As the debate on the precise format of the referendum rumbled on, however, finance secretary John Swinney also took to the papers, penning a piece in which he argued the Scottish economy would be greatly boosted if it were free from the shackles of Westminster.

Writing for Scotland on Sunday, he declared:

“Time and again, this government has argued for a stimulus to capital investment by the UK government to boost the construction sector and wider economy. Scottish GDP would have grown in the first quarter of the year if not for the problems that the sector faces, and that is why I have called on the chancellor to invest an extra £5bn in capital projects, including the ‘shovel-ready’ projects that we have identified in Scotland.

“There is no doubt that with the full fiscal powers of independence, the Scottish government could do even more to strengthen our economy. But in the meantime, there is simply no excuse for further delay from the UK government.

Once again, I call on them to help, rather than hinder, the process of economic recovery.”

With the urgency of the debate now reaching a new level it is clear, as Scotland on Sunday has observed, “the phoney war may be about to end, and the real war begin”.

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12 Responses to “The phoney war on Scottish independence is coming to an end”

  1. RolftheGanger

    There has always been a tendency for polls to understate SNP support and likewise the quite differently and wider support for Independence/DevoMax/Home Rule.

    The result is the ‘shock’ result of the 208 and 2011 SNP landslide results. This is just more of the same. Managed expectations. Did not work – will not work.

    The clue is in Cameron offering more concessions. PMs do not offer concessions to causes that are on the wane.

    Watch the actions, not the bluster and bravado, whipping up jingoistic fake fervor in support of an undemocratic, unjust, and wholly incompetent Westminster system.

    The Yes vote is going to present a once-off major opportunity for social, economic,political and constitutional change – to suit the needs of the people – north and south of the border.

  2. M MacLachlan

    Intrigued that you didn’t report this part of Tom Gordon’s article:

    “However, there are concerns among some volunteers that the weekend
    has been rushed to capitalise on the Olympic feelgood factor and that
    could result in the Unionist parties running separate stalls,
    undermining the whole concept of Better Together.

    Volunteers were given just 10 days’ notice through an email from
    campaign director Blair McDougall saying: “We want to kick this
    grassroots campaign into gear by having events not just in one or two
    towns, we want to bring Better Together to every town in Scotland. It is
    so important that we speak to people face to face about Independence.”

    Better Together bungled the announcement of the event on its Facebook
    page. This initially said there would be a “National Campaign Day” next
    Friday, then changed it to next Saturday, then changed it again to both
    Saturday and Sunday, then finally changed its name to the “National
    Campaign Weekend”.

    One Tory volunteer said the omens were not good: “This has come out
    of the blue. It seems to be a rush job. I’ve been given no details from
    them or my local [Conservative] association.

    “It looks as if it’s been cobbled together on the back of the
    Olympics. Better Together might also be getting nervous at all the
    stalls being run by Yes Scotland round the country.”

    Other would-be volunteers have left messages on Better Together’s Facebook page, asking if anything is happening in their area.

    Launched in June, Better Together is spearheaded by Labour and backed by the Tories and LibDems.”

    And of course being backed by the Tories means being funded by the Tories.

  3. M MacLachlan

    PS is just me that can barely read this font colour against the black background…

  4. Gerard

    Neither 2007 nor 2011 were shocks going by polling. The political anoraks and reporters were surprised but the polling clearly showed the results that transpired.
    The polling companies are accurate and usually all within the same ballpark with their polling results – the trend for support for spearation is there for all to see: reahced a plateau and rested there for the past 30 years.

  5. Hearthammer

    I beg to differ. There were around three polls conducted days before the 2011 election that showed the result was too close to call. No polls showed an outright win for the SNP.

    The problem for Labour in Scotland is that they have no alternative to independence. They are sharing a platform with the Tories and Lib Dums and that will be their downfall. We know that various parties (including the SNP) are calling for independence. Just what are Labour calling for? More of the same from Westminster? Jam tomorrow? Nobody knows.

  6. Newsbot9

    Overrode it in my browser, but yes it’s a problem.

  7. Newsbot9

    As opposed to Salmond’s blank cheque?

  8. Newsbot9

    Support for the SNP doesn’t equate perfectly to support for independence, though. Again, the problem is the lack of a Britain-wide left-wing party!

    And you think that the British “need” far more right wing governments? Er…

  9. Newsbot9

    Oops, that WAS me, overzealous post pruning.

  10. RolftheGanger

    Re-watch the stunned amazement of the chaterrati commentators and experts as the SNP results rolled in. Some were near in tears. They had believed theirown propaganda.
    Some surveys did the usual last minute upward adjustment of their results. Happens every GE where the SNP is concerned. They try and lower expectations, Then make hasty last minute adjustments so they minimise damage to their already tattered credibility. That maoevre has been used so often, peolle are getting wie to it. Hence the low trust level for Westminster government.

  11. RolftheGanger

    Agreeed, that the support for Independence is far wider than the SNP, including a large percentage of Labour voters, (as opposed to the hierarchy)
    Both Labour and Tories have sold out to the barbarian neo-liberailst falkr ‘philosophy/ Which amounts to a return to medieval feudalism, with the few rich and powerful lording it over mass consumer have-nots. To me neo-liberalism is just disguised return to the stoneage – “might is right, anything goes, devil take the hindmostt”
    The idea that society is solely and entirely driven by naked greed, self interest and absence of morality is a return to the Dark Ages.
    There is a dire need for a new party to articulate and lead a humane, modernising and reform ist rejigging of the entire constitution, political system, institutions, bureaucracy, laws, ewconomics and social policies. in EWNI.
    Not a hope in hellof one evolving in the UK. What people fail to consider is the sheer inertia of 60 million governed by one central government system. No other country in the world operates this way. They all have mid-tier States, Provinces or whatever. Way more powerful than the devolution powers.
    Scotland has its solution mapped out, via the SNP Government and Independence.
    My post was and is to urge concerned readers to seize the opportunity in 2014 to change the system of government for EWNI – Not just change which tweedledee or dum loyt are in power.

  12. uglyfatbloke

    One problem is that ‘Better Together’ is a long way from being a grass roots campaign…it’s very much a top-down affair and as long as the ‘top’ includes Cameron, Darling, and Clegg it is going to struggle to persuade people that is ‘made in Scotland’ rather than ‘made at Westminster’ Where are Charlie Kennedy and Ken MacIntosh? …and yes, I struggle to read the font as well…. there again I’m pretty ancient so it may be an ‘ageing eyesight’ issue.

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