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Alistair Darling needs football fans—not financiers—to save the union

26 March 2014

Has the No camp got it wrong? This may seem an odd question to ask when the unionists are still leading in the referendum race but there is no doubt that the gap between the two sides of the independence debate has tightened.

According to a new YouGov poll in the Times today, when the don’t knows are discounted, the No camp is on 58 per cent (down three points) and the Yes camp is on 42 per cent (up three points). A gap of 16 points is still healthy with six months to go but this is a considerable distance from the polls a year ago which gave the No camp a consistent lead of 20 points or more.

So it is now undeniable that the Yes camp has closed the gap on the No camp and, if this trend continues, then we shall be looking at a very, very close result in September. Better Together has spent the last month or two concentrating on business and economics.

It all kicked off with George Osborne’s declaration that an independent Scotland would be barred from sharing sterling with the rest of the UK – his ‘sermon on the pound’ as Alex Salmond cleverly dubbed it. This was followed by a raft of businesses, big and small, all warning of the perils of independence and threatening to decamp to England if Scots voted to end the Union. It culminated this morning with the CBI’s scathing attack on independence with John Cridland, the CBI Director General, hard-hitting warning that the SNP’s sums ‘don’t add up’.

But the problem for the No camp is this – it doesn’t seem to be working.

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Everyone in Scotland now knows that business doesn’t want independence. It is as clear as day that companies all over Scotland and across the UK fear the disruption, the costs and the extra regulation that independence would bring and most are fiercely opposed to it.

Yet despite all these warnings, more and more Scots appear to be edging towards the Yes camp. Why is that?

One reason is because independence is becoming a financial and a class issue. Put bluntly, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote Yes and the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote No. The most committed Yes voters are low-paid or unemployed youngish men while the most defiant No voters are well-off women.

So, back to the original question – has the No camp got it wrong by expending all this energy on building a solid business case for the Union when the people who care about these things already support the Union? After all, the business case has now been won and it is likely that the vast majority of those connected with business, enterprise and corporate Scotland are now opposed to independence.

What the No camp has to do now is win over those who have been untouched and unmoved by the business case. It can do that – and there is also a belief in the No camp that the unionist vote will harden in the last six weeks of the campaign as more cautious Scots gravitate back to the status quo.

That may happen but Alistair Darling and the rest of the Better Together team have to find a way of moving on from the business arguments and connecting with those who, frankly, don’t give a damn what Standard Life, Shell or RBS have to say about independence.

They have to start winning back those women who like the idea of all the free childcare the Nats have promised to throw at them and those men who care more about what Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, has to say than the thoughts of the Director General of the CBI.

That is their task for the next six months. It can be done but they will have to shift their tactics significantly to do so.

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Show comments
  • komment

    How many people who comment on Scottish Independence live in Scotland and will be directly affected by a Yes vote?

    • allymax bruce

      Oh-oh; you’ve done it now!
      Cue rabid ramblings from the BritNats.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      I don’t live in Scotland but the last time I looked the UK was a democracy and I will comment on whatever I like. Second, Salmond is proposing a currency union (emphatically and sensibly rejected) which would require my country to underwrite the newly issued debt of a foreign country. This would affect, detrimentaly, everybody in the UK and so we will have our say thank you very much.

  • Bhoy Green

    GIRUY I am voting Yes

  • Wessex Man

    Well looking at the comments below confirms only one thing that I’m truly shocked to be saying, shocked I tell you. That Alex Massie on another thread here today is absolutley right, well this time at least.

    “Facts are for other people and unwelcome reality must not be allowed to penetrate the Yes Cocoon.”

    He is so right and this is why I support the Yes Campaign, go for it!

  • asalord

    Vote No for more austerity, Austerity will be implemented by Westminster, whether it’s a tory or a labour government. Everyone in Scotland, including the poor, knows this.

  • Colin56

    There’s a lot of bollox talked about ‘the business case’ for Scottish independence. Every business case is based on a raft of assumptions – which may or may not turn out to be correct. (See the arguments for and against HS2, as a strong example of the business case built on shifting sands.) Big companies, business leaders etc may say what they think now, but that’s not necessarily what they would do after independence, especially if the new Scottish Government throws a few policy sweeteners their way. Are the likes of Standard Life, BP, RBS really going to pack their traps and head south of the new Border? I don’t think so.

    And, while we’re at it, why don’t Scottish voters give some headspace to the more visionary, inspirational case for independence? Such as running their own country, in their own way, making their own alliances, their own future, standing on their own two feet and making a go of it? Yes, sure, it may well be rocky for the first few years; yes, sure there will be setbacks; yes, fine, acceptance will take time and not necessarily be easy. But this referendum is a once-a-century opportunity for the Scots to be masters of their own destiny, to set their own agenda, separate and apart from the rest of the UK if they want to; and it seems to me that it would be a strange Scot who would turn their backs on independence and vote for rule from Westminster when, in so many countries all over the world, there are people fighting and dying for what is being offered to them on a plate.

  • Rockin Ron

    Both camps need to combat the stereotypes about the Scots that have bedeviled that fine nation for many years and cast a slur on a fine body of men and women. Both camps need to come together and say that not all Scots are pasty, freckled ginger Buckfast and Irn Bru swilling losers with a pathological hatred of the English. It is a myth that most Scots are inward looking misers or down to earth simpletons. It is wrong to assume that all Scots men wear skirts and women wear leggings and it is wrong to say that all Scots are always dour, drunk, violent and inarticulate. The inaccurate, though popular perception, that fruit and vegetables form no part of the Scottish diet should be challenged. So too, the view that all Scots are benefit claimants addicted to heroin and only interested in supporting Celtic or Rangers. It is a calumny to say that Scots people are ginger whingers draining the resources of the UK because of their poor health and drug addictions. It is wrong to say that most Scots are inarticulate, poorly educated and yearning to leave. That is media hyperbole. As is the oft stated comment that Scots consume vast quantities of deep fried Mars bars that rot their teeth.

    When will both camps come together and say enough is enough? When will both camps tackle these pernicious stereotypes?

  • Craig

    Whilst some multi-national companies have came out and stated for their own reasons keeping the status quo will cause less uncertainty, this article completely disregards other companies/unions who have stated pro independence, neutrality or the large number of SMB who have came out in favour of Independence. Unfortunately it seems only companies who have any reservations are being publicised. Business for Scotland ( has 1600 members who would disagree with the statement the business case has been won by the No camp. Such articles lead to perilous complacency and may possibly lead to some scratching of heads in coming months from the No camp when the true picture is revealed. I am the head of an International Recruitment company based in Scotland and I will be voting Yes. As such I also have visibility/relationships with many other organisations who want Independence.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    Only the poor want to be governed by their own, the rich want to be governed by foreigners shocker. Brilliant comedy … more more more!

  • Henry Hooper

    “One reason is because independence is becoming a financial and a class issue. Put bluntly, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote Yes and the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote No. The most committed Yes voters are low-paid or unemployed youngish men while the most defiant No voters are well-off women”
    I’m probably in the top 1% of earners and I am relatively new to the cause
    Independence is about getting democracy. Scotland never having voted for Tories since 1958 has had to suffer them and their politics for more than half the time since then. With the union there is no representative democracy, we are utterly powerless in the face of a UK that is becoming increasingly right wing.
    A ‘Yes’ vote is little more than a vote or empowerment and representative democracy……stop kidding yourself and everyone else on

    • monty61

      Yawn. As the oddball ‘I’m a xxxx and I’ll vote yes’ types who pop up here with some frequency need to be told, repeatedly: Anecdote is not data.

      • Maidmarrion

        Much like those who come on shaking skulls and polished bones ,throwing the runes of despair and despondency ,need to be told repeatedly , Crystal ball gazing is not data.
        Let’s face it , if the future was predictable we’d all be millionaires and some smart assed economist would have seen the fall of the banks on the horizon and saved us all a load of trouble – possibly had a few banks and bankers hauled into court on fraud charges “pour encourager les autres!”

    • HookesLaw

      Absurd – the people of Scotland are independent and free and have a vote in the united kingdom. They are no different in having a freely elected govt than yorkshire or any other part of the UK. The people of Wigan have never voted tory since nineteen frozen stiff. Likewise the people of leafy north yorkshire Richmond have never voted for anything but a Conservative since 1906.
      All are freely and fairly represented in our national parliament

      You talk utter codswallop.
      Quite why the poor in Scotland should vote for a system which will be singularly unable to support their welfare demands is beyond me but good luck to all who vote YES – if successful I imagine all the NO voters with any sense and ambition would then start voting with their feet

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        all figures show that the deficit would half instantly upon independence.

      • Craig

        If an Independent Scotland could not afford its welfare then unfortunately statistics put rUK in a worse position. Scotland’s public purse accounts for 42.7% of expenditure whilst rUK spends 45.5%. Please feel free to check slide 7 of the article below from the Financial Times.

  • Henry Hooper

    What utter uninformed ill-considered clap trap.

    “Everyone in Scotland now knows that business doesn’t want independence”…..not true, not true at all……plain distortion of reality base dit would appear on media coverage (…..biased media coverage!!)

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