SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: The leader of Yes Scotland has said Alex Salmond is a “huge asset” to the cross-party campaign for independence as he praised the record of the nationalist government at Holyrood.
Blair Jenkins, speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday, said that Salmond’s “popular and effective administration” could help deliver a Yes vote in the referendum on 18 September.
The Yes Scotland chief executive stated that he expected the independence campaign to lag behind the No camp in opinion polls until September.
However, he suggested Yes could pull ahead as voting day approaches and he stated that many Scots “will only take [decisions] in the finals stages” of the campaign.
The admission from Jenkins comes as the official 16 week campaign begins this week – the formally regulated period in the run up-up the referendum with spending limits for both sides of £1.5 million.
However, the Scottish Government will not be formally banned from promoting independence until the final 28 days of the campaign, even though the referendum will be formally regulated by the Electoral Commission from Friday.
The Yes campaign boss stated that the SNP government’s “popularity” after seven years in office handed the Yes campaign a key advantage over the No side.
Jenkins, who is a former senior BBC executive, said Salmond was “very effective” on television and could win over voters to independence.
The Yes campaign leader’s about Salmond’s popularity comes despite findings from the SNP’s own polling that the First Minister leader sharply divides opinion.
A Panelbase poll commissioned by the SNP, found Salmond had a total satisfaction rating of 48 per cent, while 37 per cent of those asked were dissatisfied.
Salmond was also booed by sections of the crowd as he appeared alongside Scottish medal winners from the GB Olympic team in Glasgow’s George Square.
However, Jenkins suggested Salmond’s “charismatic” media profile would help defeat the leadership of the No campaign.
Jenkins said: “I’ve never expressed a view that’s party political. But the fact that the SNP has been a popular and effective administration has helped the Yes campaign.
“It has kept up a remarkable level of popularity after seven years.
“The political choice people in Scotland make at the 2016 election is up to them.
“Individually though Alex Salmond is a huge asset to the Yes campaign. He’s a very effective broadcasting performer.
“Yes can put up people like Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon who stand to do well in broadcasting debates. It’s a lot easier for us as there are no obvious charismatic people for Better Together, whereas we’re spoilt for choice.”
Jenkins also suggested that the campaign could pull back its poll deficit after an ICM survey of 1,003 adults puts Yes support at 34 per cent, a fall of five percentage points since the pollster’s last opinion poll a month ago.
He said: “I don’t expect to move ahead till September. A lot of people will only take in the finals stages.
“In terms of a game changer, the game is going fine from our point of view.
“It’s hard to predict, but my sense is that Yes moves ahead in the final four or five weeks.
“I accept that we will not move ahead till then. I’ve had Yes supporters saying you don’t want to move ahead too early.
“But the truth is though you can’t say. People will get there in their own time.”
Jenkins also appeared to suggest the Yes campaign had failed to reach the target of one million names backing its independence declaration launched by Salmond two years ago.
He refused to update the figure of nearly 380,000 released by Yes a year ago and would only say he was confident the campaign would hit the target by 18 September.
Jenkins said: “I’m confident that we’ll hit the target by 18 September. We’ll update it later.”
Meanwhile, Labour MSP Richard Baker stated that Salmond had alienated voters throughout the referendum campaign.
Baker, a director of Better Together, said: “These remarks from Blair Jenkins make it even clearer that Alex Salmond and not Blair Jenkins is leading the Yes campaign.
“The claims from Blair Jenkins also fly in the face of all evidence as Alex Salmond far from being an asset is a liability for the Yes campaign.”