Tom Peterkin: No campaign finally facing its wobble

Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Alistair Darling and Willie Rennie at the Better Together launch. Picture: Neil Hanna
Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Alistair Darling and Willie Rennie at the Better Together launch. Picture: Neil Hanna
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IN THE not so distant past when the No campaign was skooshing the independence referendum, a key figure in the Better Together organisation confided that there would undoubtedly be a “wobble” before 18 September.

The Better Together strategists were prepared for such an eventuality and would not panic, he said. On the long voyage to the referendum, Yes Scotland was bound to score a decent hit. While the odd mishap was bound to strike Better Together. Any such setback would be dealt with. A resilient No campaign would cope and victory would come in the end, this sage of political strategy insisted.

Back then, the very idea of a No wobble seemed remote. Alistair Darling was making a convincing case for the Union and UK government papers did their best to demolish the independence argument.

It is perhaps an understatement to say that, since then, things have not gone the No campaign’s way.

Under sustained attack for its “negative” approach and with polls tightening, Better Together’s campaign seemed to be drifting. Things suddenly became much more serious at the weekend when SS Better Together struck an obstacle in the shape of an unnamed UK minister.

Reports that a member of the UK government had said that “of course” there could be a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK was a blow to the No campaign. This was a challenge from within, albeit from an anonymous source, to the pro-Union parties’ carefully constructed position to rule out a currency union.

For Yes Scotland, it was manna from heaven. The minister’s indiscretion fits perfectly with the SNP’s narrative that George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls’s rejection of a currency union is nothing more than bluster.

Rest assured that Yes campaigners will quote back the unnamed minister’s comments ceaselessly to undecided voters. SNP politicians will parrot them on the airwaves. They can hardly be blamed for doing so. The anonymous politician’s inability to hold the line has exposed Better Together. Its lead no longer seems unassailable. Anything but, as the Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael admitted within hours of the remarks being made.

The rogue minister has caused a wobble that Nationalists believe has the potential to capsize Better Together. “Holed below the water-line,” was how Alex Salmond put it. Events of the last few days have been unfortunate for Better Together, but its strategists believe that the ship can be steadied. After all, they have been expecting a wobble. Any more, however, could be costly.