Women and over-65 voters help deliver No victory

WOMEN and older voters were the secret weapon that drove the Better Together campaign to its decisive victory.

Yes campaigners comfort each other after learning of Nos victory. Picture: Mick McGurk

Yes Scotland succeeded in attracting Labour voters, as it had to do, but crucially was not strong enough in parts of Scotland where it normally does well in Holyrood elections.

An overnight poll of more than 2,000 voters by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggested the No campaign won among men by a six-point margin. Among women, the gap was 12 points.

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It was even more clear-cut among senior citizens, with 73 per cent of those aged 65 or over voting No.

The poll showed nearly four in ten of those who voted Labour or Liberal Democrat in the last Westminster elections voted Yes, while one in seven SNP voters backed the No campaign.

Those who voted SNP in the last general election made up 53 per cent of the total Yes vote.

People making their minds up late in the campaign were more likely to choose independence, as the tightening of the polls towards the end showed. Two-thirds of those who decided in the last few days voted Yes, while No voters were much more likely to say they decided more than a year ago or always knew how they would vote.

And despite the criticism over negativity, the polling suggests the No campaign’s focus on question marks over currency was successful.

Some 57 per cent of No voters said the pound was one of the most important factors in their decision, and the biggest overarching reason for their decision was that “the risks of becoming independent looked too great when it came to things like the currency, EU membership, the economy, jobs and prices”.

Pensions, the NHS and uncertainties about tax and public spending were also mentioned by at least a third of No voters.

By far the biggest single driver for Yes voters was “disaffection with Westminster politics”. But the Yes campaign’s recent focus on the NHS also appears to have had an impact, with 54 per cent of Yes voters saying it was one of the most important factors in their decision.

Half of women said it had affected their decision, compared with 39 per cent of men. The latter were more likely than women to mention disaffection with Westminster.

On Thursday, the Yes camp was unable to drive home its advantage in key areas where the SNP is traditionally strong in Holyrood elections.

The traditional Nationalist stronghold of Clackmannanshire was the first result to come in and Yes took only 46 per cent of the vote. It was able to garner just 44 per cent in Angus, and 42 per cent in Moray.

Scotland’s biggest city voted Yes, and Glasgow MSP and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the campaigners who fought a two-year battle and were rewarded with a comfortable majority. She was cheered as she entered the count, where 194,779 Yes votes easily beat No’s 169,347.

It was the liveliest moment during a long night at the Emirates Arena, which appeared half empty and where the atmosphere was rather subdued following the first declarations for No watched on the large screen.

Officials had earlier announced police were investigating ten cases of suspected voting fraud in the Glasgow area.

It is understood more than one of the city’s 200 polling stations was potentially affected by the alleged scam, where a voter impersonates someone else. The ballot papers were removed for investigation. Glasgow, which has 11.35 per cent of Scotland’s voters, had a relatively low turnout of 75 per cent, which left some disappointed.

Bryan Simpson, 26, from the Radical Independence Campaign, said: “I’m ecstatic about the Glasgow result. It shows a majority of Glaswegians have voted with progressive politics and voted with a big two fingers up to Westminster.

“But we thought the turnout in Glasgow would be a lot higher. We thought it was going to be about 80 per cent or 85 per cent, and I think that would have tipped it in our favour. We are only going to grow from this. I’ve always thought if we lose it, we could build upon it.”

Saffron Dickson, 16, said: “Overall, I’m a bit heartbroken, but the Glasgow result is amazing. Labour has seen its day in Glasgow and this is definitely the start of something new.

“We need to work together to get the most powers we can and the most progressive Scotland that we can build.”

In the Ashcroft poll, No voters said the independence issue should now be settled for at least a generation, but 45 per cent of Yes voters thought the issue would resurface in no more than five years.