Gideon was in Scotland yesterday complaining of economic uncertainty. No hint of irony, apparently. Media outlets were no doubt geared-up for a double-whammy of ‘authoritative Westminster Chancellor says so’, combined with the dark utterances of CBI director general John Cridland who used a speech in Glasgow to argue that the private sector on both sides of the Border “would lose out from the fragmentation of our UK single market”. It’s a familiar message we’ve heard before. But this time events interrupted the press faithfully trotting out the patter.
Three stories rolled into one to completely disrupt the Unionist narrative and lay bare just how fragile the No campaigns plans are. First Clyde Blowers chairman and chief executive Jim McColl popped up to claim that independence instead of devo-max was the only economic plan worth backing. The billionaire even made it onto the front page of the Scotsman. As the 2nd Question teeters on the edge of oblivion (only sustained in the fervid imaginations of media conspiracists) this is significant. As one commentator out it last night: “Not sure I am very interested in views of a tax exile billionaire who lives in Monaco.” But the point is that the 2nd Question is desperately looking for supporters and finding only blind alleys. The unionist’s will have been desperately hoping that Salmond was going to gamble – and he clearly has no need whatsoever. It’s Cameron who has gambled and lost.
A YouGov poll from January 2012 expressed the basic math. While 61% of those questioned for the YouGov survey opposed independence, 39% were in favour. More than half (58%) want to give Holyrood power over all its finances against 42% who don’t. When asked if – regardless of how they would vote – there should be a straight yes-no on the ballot papers to the independence question, 43% agreed. But 46% said there should be a second question – the “devo-max” option – about giving Holyrood more powers. Take away that devo max option you are left with a substantial part of the electorate who want more powers, who are dissatisfied with the status qou. This section are highly likely to be further motivated by the estimated 82% of cuts coming down the line. This is the definitely maybe brigade, and they’ll be key to winning Yes. Utterly disillusioned by Westminster politics and completely unconvinced by an ineffectual Miliband alternative this is a non-nationalist Yes vote.
Secondly we hear that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, has unveiled details of a new bond-buying plan aimed at easing the eurozone’s debt crisis. He said the scheme would provide a “fully effective backstop” and that the euro was “irreversible”. The second great hope of the No campaign is that the independence movement is backed into a corner having to rely on the pound and is perceived to be sheltering in the sound and secure economic arms of the mighty British exchequer – a safe haven from the basketcase of Europe. That, suddenly looks quote different. The daily reports of a doubling of people attending food banks in Britain and the unraveling truth about what we know coyly call ‘ social justice’ (39% of children in Glasgow live in poverty) belies the myths of economic safety in the British State (see also Kate Higgins here). Alongside this you just have to glance at the success story of (to take one example) the Scottish renewables sector (UK government figures showed Scotland generated 4,590 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy in the first three months of 2012) to see an emergent force for green jobs that’s impossible to deny.
Third – this gets back to the hilarious accounts of the discussions between David Mundell (pulease!) and Nicola Sturgeon and – we’re told – Westminster are ‘giving a concession’ to allow young people to vote in the referendum. Aside from the fact that the coalition don’t really have any bargaining powers to offer, this is a breakthrough moment.
Only weeks ago we were being told – in apparent seriousness by commentators like Severin Carrell and others across the mainstream media that the referendum was lost, or even, wouldn’t happen at all. As the Labour-Tory campaigning alliance proves an embarrassment for many Labour supporters and the desperate clinging to the Olympic-glee fades, the No campaign is being left rudderless and increasingly clueless.
Faced with terminal decline, endless scaremongering and a failed elite governance of the sort that Gideon Osborne represents, the binary choice between Yes and No – between more of the same and more powers – will offer a significant shift for Yes.