Indyref2: who would front the Yes and No sides?

Barring yet another '˜material change in circumstances,' it seems that Scotland is headed for another referendum on independence.
JK Rowling and Mhairi Black. Picture: TSPLJK Rowling and Mhairi Black. Picture: TSPL
JK Rowling and Mhairi Black. Picture: TSPL

With Brexit set to be triggered in less than six weeks, and polls continuing to tighten, a mooted referendum in 2018 seems to get more and more likely.

With so many of the players from the 2014 vote moving on from politics, or moving to new jobs, it’s unlikely a rerun of the vote will see a rerun of the cast.

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Since that 55-45 result in 2014, persuasive figures have emerged on both sides, so we take a look at who the key faces in indyref2 could be for each side.

Fiona Hill. Picture: GettyFiona Hill. Picture: Getty
Fiona Hill. Picture: Getty

Mhairi Black – Yes Campaign

Mhairi Black is no stranger to campaigning for independence, it was there in 2014 that she first shot to national prominence.

She undertook a tour with former MP Dennis Canavan in the lead up the vote, but didn’t take on an official role with the Yes Scotland campaign.

The former chip shop worker became the youngest MP in the House of Commons after winning the election in Paisley and Renfrewshire South at the age of just 21.

Frankie Boyle. Picture: TSPLFrankie Boyle. Picture: TSPL
Frankie Boyle. Picture: TSPL

Black spearheaded an SNP drive to gain the support of young voters at the last Holyrood election, and has won plaudits all over the UK for her forceful and persuasive speaking style.

Her maiden speech alone has been viewed over 10m times.

A profile this high is too good to be wasted, so expect Black to be front and centre of the indyref2 campaign.

JK Rowling – No campaign

Nicola Sturgeon with husband Peter Murrell.
 Picture: PANicola Sturgeon with husband Peter Murrell.
 Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon with husband Peter Murrell. Picture: PA

Another who is not a new name in the strictest sense, the Harry Potter author was the biggest single donor to the Better Together campaign, writing a £1m cheque to help keep the union in place.

Her Twitter account shows that she hasn’t lost her passion for politics, with as many tweets on the constitution as there are on the famous boy-wizard she created.

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With a recent high profile spat with Piers Morgan, Rowling’s popularity is arguably at an all time high.

Could the multimillionaire Edinburgh resident be finally ready to step out of the shadows and take a lead role in campaigning? Time will tell.

The Scots Guards Pipes and Drums while Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. 
Picture: PAThe Scots Guards Pipes and Drums while Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. 
Picture: PA
The Scots Guards Pipes and Drums while Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Picture: PA

Peter Murrell – Yes campaign

As the husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, appointing Murrell at the head of the Yes2 campaign might scream nepotism.

But that belies Murrell’s famed skills as a campaigner. As Chief Executive of the SNP, he has been arguably as influential as his wife in the turnaround in fortunes enjoyed by the party in the last decade.

He has transformed the party’s infrastructure and campaigning machine, and winning a second referendum would be the ultimate challenge.

As First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is unlikely to head up an official campaigning body, just as Alex Salmond looked to Blair Jenkins in 2014.

But with criticism of Jenkins’ performance, Sturgeon will know she needs an improvement on the former BBC executive.

Fiona Hill. Picture: GettyFiona Hill. Picture: Getty
Fiona Hill. Picture: Getty

She may be tempted to look very close to home.

Fiona Hill – No Campaign

One immediate bonus that Theresa May has over his predecessor David Cameron in fighting a referendum campaign is that she has a Scot at her right hand.

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Fiona Hill, known sometimes by her married name of Cunningham, is described in Westminster as a fierce, battling adviser in the mould of Alistair Campbell.

Born in Greenock, Hill has been at May’s side since she entered Downing Street and would be relied upon to help steady the ship of a UK Government battle against independence.

While having a Tory aide at the helm would be political suicide for a new version of Better Together, Hill’s proximity to the Prime Minister and natural knowledge of Scotland would be a huge bonus for the no side.

And now a few less obvious suggestions:

Frankie Boyle – Yes Campaign

The comic was an outspoken supporter of Scottish independence in 2014, but he expressed it as only he can – with profanity.

That meant he wasn’t able to properly persuade anyone at public meetings or on TV debates with those from the opposing side.

He has proven himself an eloquent writer, penning savage columns for the Guardian on the state of politics.

While any kind of media-facing role might cause outrage to some, the Yes campaign would be wise to get someone who can connect with young and working class people on board.

Step forward one of our most (in)famous comics.

The Royal Family – No Campaign

The Royal Family are, of course, officially politically neutral, and didn’t make any public pronouncements in the lead up to the vote in 2014.

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But in an ‘impromptu’ exchange that it was later revealed was highly choreographed, the Queen urged churchgoers near Balmoral to ‘think carefully’ about the vote.

Her Majesty is taking on fewer roles as she approaches her 91st birthday, and by 2018 much, if not all, of the work of the monarch could fall to Prince Charles.

He has been less risk-averse than his Mother, and has made his views known on a number of subjects, including climate change, in recent years.

The UK’s unwritten constitution could make rules on royal impartiality easy to bend, and with Charles’ family, including Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, among the most popular royals, they could be a potent force for the no campaign, if used subtly and sparingly.