This has been an incredible period for the Independence movement as we now have a succession of 6 opinion polls showing a lead for the Yes campaign.
I was particularly struck by two factors in this trend.
Stuart Cosgrove in his piece for the Sunday National on 16 August noted that only 68% of those who voted NO in 2014 would do so again and that only 17% of those aged 18 – 24 are opposed to Independence.
These are figures which tell of a long-term direction of travel which can have only one possible destination. The figure of only 68% of NO voters staying with that particular choice is quite a remarkable one. To the best of my knowledge it’s the first real sign of large-scale movement away from NO. I cannot recall any sign that the NO vote was breaking down on this scale since 2014 and speaks to a real breakdown in the emotional attachment to the concept of “Britishness”. This is, perhaps as much to do with the efforts of the current and previous UK Government as to our work.
When Nicola said that we needed to stop worrying constantly about the “when” and “how” of Independence and explain the “why” she could not have imagined that a global pandemic would be what demonstrated the “why”. The current pandemic has demonstrated the huge gap in competence between the UK and Scottish Governments and the capability to rise to the occasion. When the going got tough, Nicola got to work while Boris has kept going; on holiday.
The other key finding of recent polling which fascinates me is the changes within demographics.
While the over 55s are still considerably more likely to vote NO, this is no longer the overwhelming margins which we saw in 2014. Perhaps because more of us are now entering that age group, perhaps because that’s a generation which has seen the benefits of being part of the EU, partly because they are the ones who feel the most betrayed by sheer inability to be honest about anything of this UK Government. Sure, Cameron and May were hardly intellectual or political giants but in comparison to this crowd …….
It’s startling that only 68% of those who voted NO in 2014 are still committed to that position which means obviously that 32% are either willing to change or have actually moved to YES. In contrast it seems that only 10 – 12% of those who voted YES are either open to change or have changed. Perhaps just as significantly it seems that the gender gap in younger people is vanishing.
When Nicola said that she wanted to see a strong and sustained lead for YES many doubted that we could get there but it does seem that we are entering that territory. Ok we’re not at the 60% point but we are now consistently in the mid 50s and the momentum is with us.
I look forward to Progress Scotland delving into the reasons for these changes rather than everyone working on their favourite theory. Once we know what the drivers are for both sets of movements, we can set the strategic direction with even more confidence.
So, what can possibly go wrong?
Well, as MacMillan famously said “events dear boy, events”.
While Nicola has deservedly won many plaudits for her handling of this crisis there should be no doubt that the unionist press will take every opportunity they get, or can create, to put the blame at her feet. We saw with that disgraceful programme by BBC and Nasty Wark that the verdict of a jury is no reason not to try and rewrite history. That’s more likely to be the standard than an outlier of their behaviour. We know that every decision will be revisited not in light of what was known at the time but through the prism of bias, hate and envy. We know that the British establishment will seek to sow discord and division in our ranks at every chance they can create. Our job now is to “keep the heid”, keep united, keep each other safe and most importantly of all just keep on demonstrating why Scotland needs Independence.
We should never interrupt our opponents while they are making so many mistakes but we must also be alert to the siren voices which would have us emulate them. A second majority SNP Government can be won next May and with it the prize of the second referendum. History will judge our generation harshly if we allow this moment to slip away.