Tom Peterkin: All eyes are on the Yes vote

IT WAS back in September that the leader of Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins, predicted that the gap between the Yes and No camps would have narrowed by the end of 2013.

Yes campaign chief executive, Blair Jenkins. Picture: Ian Rutherford

When Mr Jenkins was speaking at a time when support for independence was struggling to get into the slipstream of support for remaining within the United Kingdom.

“I would expect to see some narrowing,” said Mr Jenkins, as he forecast his campaign catching up with the number of No voters as Hogmanay approached.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

With Hogmanay nigh, it is time to acknowledge that Mr Jenkins’ prediction has been proved correct – so long as Evelyn Waugh’s famous proviso “Up to a point, Lord Copper” is added swiftly afterwards.

A poll published just before Christmas by TNS BMRB put support for Yes at 27 per cent – a one point increase when compared with the polling organisation’s previous survey, which was conducted before Alex Salmond published his white paper for independence.

So while the gap has closed, the white paper did not manage to deliver the sort of bounce that would suggest that Yes is capable of overhauling No any time soon – if indeed, they manage this achievment at all.

As Mr Jenkins and Mr Salmond contemplate the New Year, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

There was a time when SNP strategists were of the view that in order to have chance of winning on 18 September, Yes Scotland had to be ahead of Better Together by May. That target was being bandied about on the assumption that the number of Yes voters would drop off as the big day approached.

If that May lead is to be achieved, then a few rabbits – which were conspicuous by their absence in the white paper, have to be plucked from Mr Salmond’s hat to convince voters of his dream.

On the campaign trail, activists privately report that there are traditional Labour voters who are sympathetic to the idea of independence.

The problem is that they have difficulties with Mr Salmond, a politician often likened to Marmite in that you either like him or loathe him.

So the Yes campaign faces a challenge in that one of its greatest assets (Mr Salmond) can also be a liability when it comes to attracting waverers.

The same TNS BMRB poll did, however, offer some hope for Yes. Backing for No was put at 41 per cent – the lowest level of support recorded by any poll this year.

The Better Together campaign has proved an effective basher of SNP plans, but this has resulted in accusations of relentless negativity which need to be overcome if droves of voters are not going to be turned off.

Ultimately, however, neither has suffered a major disaster or achieved a major break through, so there is still much to be done and all to play for.