Eddie Barnes: Yes campaign has its work cut out

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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Three polls, three completely different results. At the weekend, YouGov, the online pollster, found that 59 per cent of voters were minded to vote No, and only 29 per cent to back independence.

Then, from the ashes, the SNP published a Panelbase poll it commissioned which found 44 per cent of Scots intend to vote Yes and only 43 per cent to vote No. Battle joined? Today, a TNS poll stretches the numbers even further: only 25 per cent are now supporting independence, with 47 per cent saying No. Nearly a third of people, TNS finds today, are “don’t knows” – nearly double the number from February.

It may be that the three polls help only to muddy the waters, but in that confused picture they do at least provide one clear insight into the public they seek to analyse: that many thousands of people remain uncertain about what on earth to make of the big choice facing them, and appear ready to shift their response depending on the mood music around them. This group – made up of those who say they won’t be voting, those who will but don’t know for whom, and those who are voting but admit they may change their mind – make up nearly half of the four million electorate, says IpsosMori. The rest have made up their minds one way or the other. So it is the rest who will decide the final outcome.

Reasonably, but naively, many of this group appear to believe that something will come to their aid between now and next September to settle the issue one way or another. At the moment, they feel that the campaign is just two foghorns blasting at one another. But with the campaign likely to ensure that facts are as easy to grasp as soap in the bath, their hopes for clarity may be disappointed. It would not be a surprise to find that, even next summer, the uncertainty and the dithering continue.

So the question turns to how such people will flip, when they have no option but to choose: Yes or No. The pro-independence side is now pinning its hopes on a feel-good summer next year. In parliament yesterday, Alex Salmond directly mentioned the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the Homecoming event next year – all of which would, he remarked, allow the world to see a country with a “growing confidence and sense of itself”. The hope will be that the Yes campaign can surf on that wave of positivity next year and drown out people’s inner doubts. A confidence-boosting push for the line next summer is already being lined up.

However, their low core vote means that, even if all the ditherers were persuaded, they would still currently fall short of the magic 50 per cent. Meanwhile, the pro-UK side will be confident that “don’t knows” will always be more likely to swing to the status quo – political science and the history of referenda dictates as much.

So three polls, three wildly different results – but the same conclusion as before any were published. The pro-independence side has a mountain to climb.

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