Fourteen days to go and with the latest poll reporting a difference between the two sides of just six points, a frission of nervousness is flowing through capital markets and excitement is gathering across the media in expectation that they may be on the verge of the biggest story of their careers. Alas, no sign of life from Westminster but then we’re used to that. The “don’t knows,” are swinging to “Yes,” at a two to one ratio. Most observers attribute the change to Darling’s poor showing in the last debate when he had no answer to Salmond’s aggressive debating tactic of painting Scottish Labour as quasi Tories, (although Guido squarely blames the Gordon Brown effect!).
There may be an another reason however that is driving the don’t knows, and many previous unionists, into the yes camp.
Hardly anyone has heard of it in the South but in Scotland, “The Wee Blue Book,” has been dropping through letter boxes for weeks with many households receiving, and continuing to receive multiple copies. Written by Stuart Campbell of the Wings Over Scotland cybernat blog, (who oddly lives in Somerset), it is turning heads and changing minds. You may not yet be familiar with Wings Over Scotland but it is a very successful site and is read daily by most if not all political journalists and interested politico’s.
Up until very recently many individuals were genuinely undecided but friends tell me that since this book started dropping on the doormat many have changed from “No” to “Yes” and its self-evident where the “don’t know’s” are heading. It’s a slick, well written production and having read it, its easy to see how many find it convincing. The scary thing is, people across the political and social spectrum appear believe it verbatim. The “No,” team do not yet have an appropriate, equal or original response. All of which is fascinating to reflect on across multiple levels given the recent debate on indoctrination and radicalisation in English towns.
The “Book,” as it has become known, obviously covers just about every argument raised in pub debates in the last ten years and predictably, an independent Scotland wins every time. It even mentions the World Cup! No one would expect anything else from mischievous, or malevolent, political operators who have produced this cleverly, or craftily, written piece of propaganda.
I wouldn’t underestimate the impact this thing is having. At the minimum, interested unionists should read it cover to cover. At some point the penny must drop, we’re within a whisker of losing the most important political campaign in 300 years and we didn’t really show up for the bout.
Another aspect of the campaign which is manifesting itself on a broader basis is the increasingly spiteful and sinister edge to the Nationalists campaign such as was endured last week by the Better Together campaigner, Labour MP Jim Murphy on his “100 Towns, 100 Days,” campaign. Mr Murphy is genuinely to be admired for his commitment and passion. Unfortunately, an underlying nastiness is emerging further afield in villages and towns with rumours and scaremongering becoming more apparent. Everyone would earnestly hope that the debate, voting and counting process will be conducted properly and that both the eventual winner and loser, and their supporters, will treat the decision with dignity and respect. Scots harbour long memories. You don’t have to go far in the Highlands to discover a residual resentment borne in the collective memory from the Clearances and that resentment is aimed at the central belt every much as it is the English. A more obvious chasm exists between the Orkney and Shetland islanders and the central belt and that is likely to be one of Salmond’s first thorny problems were he to win on the 18th. But that’s another story.
The “Yes “ camp are a nose in front but that’s all. Placing a higher news and political priority on an Essex by election than a debate of national historical and international importance is not helping the perception in Scotland of how much the rest of the nation care. It needs to change, we need to engage and bloody quickly.