Eddie Barnes: Alex Salmond may appear have signed up to mission impossible but final result is far from guaranteed
IT MAY be stretching the imagination a little too far, but think of Alex Salmond as Tom Cruise for a moment.
He is seated at his fifth-floor desk in St Andrew’s House. The morning post brings a strange radio device. Salmond/Cruise presses play. “Your mission should you choose to accept it,” declares a disembodied voice, in a familiar plummy Etonian tone, “is to convince the Scottish people to back independence. We’ll give you two years. Oh, and if you want, you can ask 16-year olds. Ask 10-year olds – it won’t make any difference. Anyway, this tape will automatically....”
“He must know that his mission is impossible,” YouGov’s polling sage Peter Kellner declared on Monday, as Mr Salmond was putting pen to paper on The Deal. The First Minister deserved credit for having managed to get the question asked, Kellner added. “But he is most unlikely to like the answer”. Speak to some in the pro-Union camp, and a similar feeling emerges. Like approaching a footballing mis-match, it is as if some on the pro-Union side are not so much after the three points, but hoping to ensure they get a healthy boost to their goal difference as well.
A few caveats are worth adding. It is self-evident, as Mr Kellner states, that all recent evidence points to two-to-one support for the UK. But not only is this before the campaigns have got to work, it is also before voters have really turned their attention onto the issue.
One recent poll found that only 16 per cent of people rated independence as the most pressing issue facing the country. Many – being busy, sensible members of the human race – haven’t given much attention to what up till now has been a hypothetical issue.
That will change as the campaign evolves – and it would be brave to predict how that deeper thought process changes matters.
Not that it isn’t stopping the two camps having a go. The Independence campaign believes that, with those minds concentrating, and Britain’s Olympic summer fading into the memory, they will soon see momentum building. One senior figure is so bold as to suggest that support for the UK has now reached its “high water mark”. A concerted effort will now be made to reassure key influencers over the coming months as things get serious.
On the other side, pro-UK campaigners say that, on the doorsteps, they are finding a growing buyer’s remorse among those who voted SNP last year, not thinking that constitutional overload was what they were going to get. The campaign is also happy to welcome the sudden focus on independence, saying it may help them persuade some of the shy Big Beasts in the business jungle to get their hands dirty and speak openly about their concerns.
The geological length of this campaign guarantees highs and lows for both camps. Certainty, it looks like Mission Extremely Difficult for the independence camp. But to assume it will self-destruct in that time is surely mistaken.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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