Better Together sets sights on SNP voters who reject independence

Blair McDougall, Campaign Director, Better Together.
Blair McDougall, Campaign Director, Better Together.
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THE pro-UK “Better Together” campaign is working up plans to try to win the support of a majority of those voters who backed the SNP in the last Holyrood election, The Scotsman has learnt.

The campaign has set out ambitious plans to focus on the 900,000 people in Scotland who voted Alex Salmond back to the Scottish Parliament.

Campaign figures claim that as many as 40 per cent of those voters actually oppose independence already, having decided to support the Nationalists solely as the party of devolved government.

They include high-profile SNP supporters such as Sir Tom Farmer, who said last year that he did not back full independence for Scotland.

The pro-UK camp now believes it can work that number above 50 per cent prior to the 2014 vote. Success would likely lead to a landslide victory for the Better Together campaign, which has already said it is hoping to gain the backing of between two and three million Scottish voters.

The campaign has not set official targets for the percentage it would like to hit, but with about four million people in Scotland eligible to vote, it suggests the campaign is aiming for as much as 75 per cent of the total.

The attempt to target SNP voters over the coming two years follows polling evidence showing that the SNP has consistently been more popular than independence over recent years.

Despite winning an overall majority at Holyrood, backing for independence has remained solidly two-to-one against. One YouGov poll last year found that, among people who supported the SNP in 2011, only 52 per cent actually supported independence, while 31 per cent said they opposed it. A further 17 per cent said they did not know.

Among supporters of other pro-UK parties, the poll found that opposition to independence was extremely strong, at 77 per cent among Labour voters, 84 per cent among LibDems and 90 per cent among Conservative voters.

Blair McDougall, the chief executive of the Better Together campaign, said: “Our target is to get two to three million voters. We are not just seeking people who are agreeing with us. Rather that we are trying to seek out the people who disagree with us.”

He added: “We think we can get a majority of SNP voters to vote to stay in the UK. It is around 30-40 per cent at the moment.”

The plan is a riposte to the “Yes Scotland” campaign which, under its umbrella, has set up a “Labour for Independence” campaign, led by party activist Alan Grogan, which is aiming to peel away Labour supporters to the pro-independence cause.

The chief executive of Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins, has claimed that more Labour figures will be unveiled prior to the 2014 referendum.

Both sides agree that the large group of traditional Labour supporters who may be undecided about independence may hold the key to the outcome of the campaign. Pollsters have noted in recent months that the SNP cannot bank on gaining the support of those who backed them for Holyrood in 2011.