Height of hubris

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The arrogance of David Cameron’s government, as highlighted by Natalie McGarry (Perspective, 16 July), in believing it has already won the battle over Scottish independence, 14 months before the referendum, is to be welcomed.

Scots often pull off their best performances as the underdog and this will hopefully prove to be a case in point. History also reflects on the dangers of predicting the results of such events from a long way in advance.

In the referendum on independence for Quebec in 1995, the motion to decide whether Quebec should secede from Canada was defeated by a very narrow margin of 50.58 per cent No to 49.42 per cent Yes.

Early polls, however, indicated that 67 per cent of Quebecers would vote No and yet the Yes side came within a whisker of claiming victory.

In the 1975 referendum on whether the UK should withdraw from the EEC or stay in, those favouring withdrawal initially led by a margin of 2:1, with this situation reversed at the actual polls, with 67 per cent of the country voting to stay in the EEC.

And let us not forget that in March 2011, two months before the Scottish Parliamentary election, Labour held a double-digit lead over the SNP in the opinion polls – 44 per cent to 29 per cent.

And yet the latter went on to win this historic election, delivering a majority SNP government, the first time in the Scottish Parliament when a party has commanded a parliamentary majority.

It is rather foolish and foolhardy of the UK government to believe the match has already been won when there is still so much of it left to play.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace

Edinburgh