Why Scotland's fate could be decided on its long-neglected housing estates

As Scotland's referendum draws closer, we’ve heard the thoughts of the chattering classes and the warnings from industry that independence would bring pain.

But the future of the UK won’t be decided in boardrooms or at dinner parties. The fate of the union may well lie with people in Scotland’s long neglected and impoverished housing schemes.

According to current polling, the Yes campaign is unlikely to win its dream of independence this September - but if it does, it’ll be these estates and their disenchanted Labour voters that push them across the line.

By and large people in Glasgow’s east end have voted for Labour down the generations, the political map in the disadvantaged parts of the city is dyed red by tradition.

Scotland's future could well be decided on the housing estates. Credit: ITV News

But there’s a growing disenchantment with the party in Scotland. Many here feel let down.

Labour suffered a crushing defeat to the SNP at the last Scottish elections, so nationalist promises of a brighter, more exciting future are finding a receptive audience on these streets.

Many people feel they have nothing to lose from independence.

Unemployment is rising in Glasgow’s east end, in contrast to the trend elsewhere. Average life expectancy is 68.1 years, five years below the Scottish average, so there’s merit to the argument that no-one else is helping them.

Many of those who had lost heart in politics altogether are coming back. This referendum has engaged the whole country. There’s talk of an 80% turnout in September. Way bigger than a General Election could ever generate.

I’ve been told of people who took themselves off the electoral register in 1991 to avoid paying the poll tax, re-registering so they can vote in September. This could be the first time the Scottish working class has mobilised itself as a political movement since the days of Thatcher and her hated community charge.

It’s thought more than a third of the country's working class still aren't sure how they’ll vote - although polling suggests the poor are more drawn to independence than people from more affluent backgrounds.

They’re certainly more likely to be hostile to lecturing from a Conservative government and therefore, perhaps, inclined to feel we’d be better off alone.

There’s a growing disenchantment with the party in Scotland says Martin Geissler Credit: ITV News

Labour’s Jim Murphy is warning the disadvantaged have most to lose from the breakup of the union. And he’s using history as his witness.

Whether it’s industrial closures or financial crises, he says, it’s always the poor who pay the highest price. This would be another “high impact event”, he says, and again it’ll be hardest felt in places like this.

But in the Castlemilk housing estate, in the south east of Glasgow, I didn't get the sense that those warnings are penetrating.

“We couldn't be much worse off than we are just now” said one drinker in the appropriately-named New Oasis bar.

“Labour have done nothing for us, it’s time for a change, said another”.

A young man nursing a pint in the corner had a definite plan in mind: “I want to vote “yes” for independence”, he told me, “then I want to kick the SNP out and a Labour government up here. Not New Labour though, old, traditional Labour. That’s what Scotland needs”.

This could be the first time the working class has mobilised itself since Thatcher. Credit: ITV News

On Friday, Ed Miliband will address his party’s Scottish conference in Perth. He’d do well to listen, too, while he’s up here. Because all is not well in his heartland, and that could have a real impact later this year.

Gordon Brown making the case for the "no" campaign as he address Scottish Labour activists tonight Credit: Twitter/@scottishlabour