Splits emerge in Yes to Independence Campaign

Alex Salmond and the wider SNP Leadership are coming under fire for failing to provide a radical, positive enough vision for an independent Scotland.

Alex Salmond and the wider SNP Leadership are coming under fire for failing to provide a radical, positive enough vision for an independent Scotland.

Following a difficult week for Scotland’s first minister which saw the UK Treasury publish its assessment that rejected the SNP’s plans for a sterling zone with the rest of the UK, a number of senior members of the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign have expressed concerns that Alex Salmond et al have been too timid in making the case, seeking too much to reassure wavering voters.

Scotland on Sunday has published a series of critiques from supporters of an independent Scotland, among them are the now independent MSP and former leading light in the SNP, Margo MacDonald, who called on the nationalists to be “bolder”; an unnamed serving SNP MSP who has concluded that the party needs to stop being “too sensitive to the ‘how will this look?’ thing”; whilst former SNP MSP Jean Urquhart, who quit the party after it decided Scotland should join Nato, is quoted as saying:

“What we need to do is reassure people that they are tough enough to do this rather than simply assure them that everything is going to be OK because nothing will be changed.”

The concerns within the ranks of the “Yes” camp follow the publication of yet further difficult survey findings for Alex Salmond. Polling conducted by YouGov for the Better Together campaign found that of those questioned,  62 per cent said the SNP’s case for independence was either “not very convincing” or “not convincing at all”, of which roughly a fifth were SNP voters in either Scottish or Westminster Parliamentary elections.

This is turn following news that the Yes to Independence campaign’s difficulties resonating with female voters north of the border is far more serious than simply Alex Salmond’s bombastic style of politics.

Research conducted by the National Centre for Social Research, based on an analysis of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has found that an historical gap has persisted ever since 1999 with the birth of the Scottish Parliament in its current form, with women much less likely than men to support full independence – an average gender gap of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent.

The paper continues:

“Opinion polls conducted since February 2013 which have asked people how they intend to respond to the agreed referendum question (‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’) have found a ‘gender gap’ in the proportion stating they will vote ‘Yes’ of between 1 and 22 percentage points.”

It also finds:

  • Alex Salmond continues to be less popular with women than men, but the gender gap in relation to independence existed even in years when he was not SNP leader.
  • The gender gap is not explained by differences in national identity – women are no less likely than men to feel more Scottish than British.
  • Women are less certain than men about what the consequences of independence might be. And they appear to need more convincing around what practical impact independence will have – e.g. on the standard of living.

In its editorial the Sunday Herald has concluded that the Yes campaign needs to provide a much clearer, positive vision for Scotland going it alone. The paper says of those in favour of independence:

“If they are to break out of a depressing cycle of defensive reaction, they need to articulate a clear, bold, joined-up vision of the kind of society Scotland could become. A vision built on optimism and hope rather than fear and timidity.”

Assessing the mountain that the SNP now has to face meanwhile, Scotland on Sunday over the weekend concluded in its editorial:

“Alex Salmond has just over 16 months to win the trust and confidence of the average Scottish voter on the future of our country. But first he needs to win the trust and confidence of his colleagues in the Yes campaign. He needs to convince them that the SNP strategy for victory is the only one with any chance of winning the prize, and that by opposing this strategy they could, ultimately, be doing more damage than good to the independence cause.”

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