Scotland has been living, breathing and reading all about the referendum on independence for 18 months now. Some might also point out it is a debate we’ve been having for the last century. Certainly since the SNP came to the fore in the mid 1900s it has been slowly, very slowly, gathered speed.
But now we find ourselves a year away from a Yes or No vote which will determine whether Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom – potentially ending a 300 year old Union.
On 18 September 2014, the Scottish electorate, including 16- and 17-year-olds for the first time, will face the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
With 12 months of campaigning to go, the Yes campaign, depending on which poll you look at (and there is almost one a day at the moment), is currently between 15 and 30 points behind its rival the Better Together campaign. One of the most interesting polls out this week by ICM showed that if Scots felt they would be just £500 better off in an independent country then 47 percent would go for it, compared with 37 percent against. That has buoyed the SNP and their Yes campaign given they estimate every Scot would be £824 better off.
Speaking with a year to go, the First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said:
The Better Together campaign led by former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling may be on the front foot but they know Alex Salmond should never be written off. He is, after all, the politician who delivered a historic majority in the Scottish Parliament and who continues to have a popularity rating that David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg can only dream of.
However, polls do consistently indicate that Scotland will not vote for independence next year. Removing the ‘don’t knows’ from the equation, you generally end up with a split of around 60 percent against, 40 percent for. And looking again at the aforementioned ICM poll, if Scots felt they would be £500 worse off as an independent country the numbers supporting the Yes camp fall to just 18 percent compared with 66 percent voting to keep the Union.
What this poll makes clear, apart from the difference just £500 could make, is that for most Scottish people the crux of the argument over the next year will be about economics - will they be better off or not?
Chair of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling said:
The one thing people constantly say to me as we canvass opinion on the subject of independence is that they don’t have enough information. The SNP promise that will come with the publication of their White paper on independence in November, a prospectus for what an independent Scotland will look like. The Nationalists are hoping this document will be the key to turning the tide of opinion and encourage more Scots to take what one woman described to me this week as a leap of faith. A year is a long time in politics...