Stephen Noon: Our positive case will win a Yes

Stephen Noon of the Yes campaign for independence. Picture: Robert Perry
Stephen Noon of the Yes campaign for independence. Picture: Robert Perry
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IN FEBRUARY, we had the No campaign’s Big Threat: the claim that if we walked away from the UK, we’d walk away from the pound.

There is the obvious fact –sterling is a fully tradeable currency, so we can use the pound regardless of what Westminster politicians say adding further weight to the argument that we will share the pound.

However, putting this aside, even as the edict was being delivered by Mr Osborne and his allies in the Labour leadership and the Lib Dems, it was doubted and then disbelieved by most Scots.

Worst of all for the No campaign, alongside what was clearly a common-sense assessment of the position by voters, there was a sense of outrage: ‘How dare they act as though the pound wasn’t ours as well – so much for a Union of equals’.

There was movement in the polls and, contrary to the Westminster expectation, it was in the Yes campaign’s favour. It shows what happens when your campaign is led by people who spend all or most of their time in London and, thus, don’t have their finger on the pulse of Scottish opinion.

It’s been said that No remained hopeful of a longer term impact from the pound threat. The theory was it would be enough to put a brake on movement to Yes by giving undecided voters a clear example of ‘risk’. It was designed to halt any post-White Paper momentum.

I’ve engaged with dozens of undecided voters on the currency question and for a small number the ‘sermon on the pound’ did create a barrier. Over time, it may have undermined the confidence of others. But no more. The big, indeed biggest, stick has cracked, beyond repair.

We now know for sure the No currency pitch was a campaign tactic, driven forward by Alistair Darling. Even more remarkably, a Treasury source admitted Darling and Dunlop were “running the show – we just did what they said”.

So much for impartiality – little wonder the Treasury’s currency claim was so easily demolished last week.

On currency, therefore, what Yes said from the beginning has been borne out, while No are left with a yawning credibility chasm.

In March, the Big Threat was meant to be followed by the Big Offer: the Labour Party’s more powers proposals. But that had a much faster implosion – it took just days for the Devolution Commission’s compromise to crumble.

I knew the plans were dead in the water when Twitter revealed one of the most glaring flaws – that you can’t vary a restored 10p tax rate.

The pound threat hadn’t worried me because of our strong response but I had been more nervous about the No camp’s ‘more powers’.

There was a real chance they could have constructed a proposal big enough to stop a big enough group of potential voters from making that final move to Yes. But that concern has gone. Anyone with a Devo Max leaning can clearly see, by far, the nearest thing on the ballot paper is a Yes.

So, the big threat has cracked and the big offer has crumbled and that creates a big opportunity for Yes.

We must not forget we remain behind in the polls. There’s still a great deal of persuasion to do, based as always on our belief in the ability of Scots to make an independent Scotland a fantastic place to live the No campaign’s grim rejoinder – no you can’t – is, as we know, yet another reason why their support is slipping.

Today is a time to keep our eyes on the winning line, on the compassionate country our Yes can help create. We all must continue making the positive case amongst our social circles.

Stephen Noon is chief strategist of the Yes Scotland campaign