It appears the rest of the United Kingdom has woken up to the fact that there is a referendum being held in Scotland which could have a not too insignificant impact on their lives. The YouGov poll published in the Sunday Times and trailed on Twitter with just a little bit of relish from Rupert Murdoch caused shockwaves through the Scotland and the rest of the UK. Yes it was only one poll and a single point, yes when looking at the un-weighed numbers No was still ahead, yes the Panelbase poll published on same day showed No maintaining the same lead and so on and so forth…
None of it mattered. The Rubicon has been crossed. An independent Scotland could be a reality. A poll giving Yes the lead had been whispered about the previous week, with some predicting its appearance on the front cover of the Daily Record on Friday. But no poll came. There was little chance for a sigh of relief from the No side though, as Murdoch took to social media to tee up a spectacular polling result for Yes.
For the No camp there was a hard choice to make. Continue along the lines they have been pursing, risk accusations of “sleep walking into independence” and hope it was alright on the night, or try and take the initiative and absorb the inevitable panic line. They have chosen the latter.
Choosing Gordon Brown to lead the fight back is clever on a few levels. Firstly he was still highly respected in Scotland at the last General Election, scoring over a million voters in comparison to the 460,000 that Salmond managed. He has also kept distance from Better Together and looked more towards the Scottish Labour campaign. He brings experience, and none of the baggage any of the current UK leaders have.
The downside to choosing Brown is of course it makes todays men look weak when they are leaning on yesterday’s man to solve their referendum problem.
But they have rolled the dice. Better to save the Union now, and deal with backbench dissent in the future, than lose the Union and very likely their own careers.
Brown has now laid out a timetable for the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament which has been agreed to by the other parties. Under his plan we would see the following;
• 19th September: Formal initiation on bringing in additional powers to which all parties can contribute
• October 2014: A command paper published by the present government setting out all the proposals for change, finalised no later than the end of October
• November 2014: Following a period of discussion and consultation with civic society the heads of agreement in the form of white paper or equivalent document
• January 2015: Draft clauses for legislation as the new Scotland Bill.
While each of these parties will continue to push their own set of devolution proposals, this at least gives the canvassers a timetable to take the doorsteps in the final days. Brown is now going on a tour into the Labour heartlands where the vote towards Yes has been leaking. He has also been placed front and centre of an impressive new No advert which harks back through the decades. Have no doubt; the other big man of Scottish politics is back.
Of course Yes Scotland and the SNP have been accusing them of panic and portraying the No campaign as collapsing. Yet one suspects that the First Minister, who has enjoyed rolling the dice himself on occasion, might secretly be impressed by this bold move.
It isn’t all the Gordon Brown Show though, as the Cameron, Miliband and Clegg will all forego Prime Ministers Questions to come up to Scotland and (separately it might be noted) campaign for a No vote. Much merriment has been made online as to whether this will help or hinder the No vote. However polling does show people like signs of unity on this issue, and as the polling has shown, not taking part isn’t exactly helping matters.
A close tie in the polls suddenly makes this a lot more real for both politicians and voters. Yesterday there was volatility in the UK stock markets, with Scottish based companies in particular seeing some falls. Suddenly money is at stake. A taste of what is to come, or just a minor hiccup? This might have been the reason why the Governor of the Bank of England today at the TUC annual conference said that “a shared currency is incompatible with sovereignty”.
Clearly there is concern on the money markets, and while it has faded today, the fall yesterday will be on the minds of the financial sector over the coming days.
This has been a remarkable two days for Scotland, which have sprung from a single poll. With less than ten days to go, the clock is ticking. Only a handful of polls are expected between now and the 18th and it is unlikely any will be able to reflect whether the counteractions taken by Brown will have had an effect.
One thing is certain. Over in the Yes camp, people must be walking a bit more confidently, and smiling just a little wider. Irrespective of the final result it has been a remarkable campaign for them – with further devolution Scotland will be transformed very quickly. What shape that takes will be decided in the polling booths next Thursday.