Alex Salmond won the second independence debate, but nothing he said made Alistair Darling squirm as much as these comments from two ordinary members of the audience.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Monday, 25 August 2014
The second Scottish independence debate took place a short while ago and Alex Salmond won it by several furloughs. The Guardian published a quick poll which showed that seventy-one percent of the population agree with that verdict which will leave the Yes campaign enthused for the final three weeks until polling day.
The best moment came when a member of the audience asked the deceptively simple question: "If we are better together, why aren't we already better together?" Given that Scottish supermarkets employ bouncers to stop hungry people stealing food, that was a telling point.
A woman then told Alistair Darling that the next time he had fancy dinners with rich businessmen who want to take over the NHS, he should remember that Nye Bevin is sitting on his shoulder. That point got a loud and raucous cheer from the audience.
Darling was jeered several times, and as the debate wore on, the cheers for Salmond became louder. He seemed to relax and began to taunt Darling who responded by shouting as he felt the debate slipping away from him.
I cannot remember anything that Darling said, but Salmond's sound bytes stick in the mind. A hundred thousand children expected to slide into poverty with current Westminster policies and a similar number of disabled folk losing their benefits. All that against a background of £4 billion a year being pissed away on Trident.
With just over three weeks until polling day, and with the postal votes starting to go out tomorrow, this is just the boost that Yes needs.
Sunday, 24 August 2014
Musselburgh is a small town just outside Edinburgh, and provides a perfect getaway from the city. Today it played host to some independence campaigners, including an old 1950s fire engine of a type that used to be called a green goddess. Now in her new livery she is the Blue Goddess, but still only does eight miles to the gallon.
Saturday, 23 August 2014
Leith Walk is supposedly the longest street in Scotland and today it played host to an independence festival which took over some of the shops. There were also about a dozen street stalls and this magnificent old fire engine which has now been pressed into service for the good of the cause.
The enthusiasm of the activists cannot be denied, and a lot of shoppers ended up taking badges and window posters away with them.
The Yes campaign is not a monolithic body, instead is is a confederation of groups, all of whom seem to be doing their own thing, and trying to appeal to their voting niche. The activists range from at least one very pretty girl with a Business for Scotland badge to the members of the Radical Independence Campaign, with just about every other political shade in between.
I spoke to several activists who were honest enough to admit that what is needed is doorstep canvassing, but who then went on to say that they don't have the warm bodies to do that. Compared to the No campaign, which has to pay people to deliver their leaflets, as well as pretending that Tory and Labour party hacks are ordinary members of the public, the independence groups do have a sizeable membership which does seem to be made up of normal human beings. Alas, it's still not enough to go house to house.
That said, they are trying their best with the resources and people that they have available, and they certainly make up with enthusiasm what they lack in numbers.
Friday, 22 August 2014
Today the yes pledge reached one million signatories. When it began in 2012, Alex Salmond claimed that if that magic figure was reached, then independence was assured. So why are the polls telling a different story?
Professor John Curtice is one of the more respected British pollsters, and he has just noted a move towards Yes in the referendum. That aside, how accurate are polls when it comes to votes like this?
The quick answer is that they are not very accurate at all. The pollsters got the alternative vote referendum badly wrong by overstating the yes side by about ten percent. On purely Scottish matters they have consistently made mistakes, most notably in the 2011 elections when they predicted the constituency vote fairly well, but managed to understate the SNP regional list vote by a large amount.
The problem that the pollsters have is that a sizeable chunk of the Scottish electorate do not vote, either because they cannot be bothered to register, or because they just cannot be bothered getting off their arses and walking to the polling station on the day. The pollsters try to weight their findings to take those factors into account, but this referendum is different. For one thing because both sides have encouraged a high turnout and both have encouraged people to register for the vote. In England the registration form is a simple two page affair, but in Scotland it is an even simpler one page matter - and there are special forms for homeless people and the 16 and 17 year olds who can vote next month. Try as they might, the pollsters cannot accurately measure the voting intentions of people who have historically never voted, so they apply a weighting to their sample and hope for the best.
If the turnout is high - say over eighty percent - then all bets must be off and we could just be looking at very interesting times starting on the 19th September.
Thursday, 21 August 2014
They say that the first sight of a swallow is the harbinger of spring. This week I saw my first No badges and posters, which is hardly a sign of either swallows or spring, more like the vultures of autumn, but at least the No campaign is putting in an effort at last.
Yesterday I was driving home through one of the leafier suburbs when I saw a solitary No poster in the window of a large house. Today I glimpsed a No bumper sticker on the rear of a rather nice Mercedes, and then my joy knew no bounds when I saw a cove with a No Thanks badge on his lapel.
I would like to claim that the Yes posters are festooning every window, but that is sadly not the case. That said, more and more windows have them, and I would guess that about five percent of the houses in my area are sporting Yes posters. Badges are much more common, almost ubiquitous in fact. A couple of weeks ago the early adopters of the Yes badges would stop and chat to each other on the street, but now they seem to be on almost every lapel.
If the result of this referendum relied just on commitment to the cause, the Yes team would walk it by a mile.