As Scotland’s decision day nears ‘undecideds’ hold key

The SNP is hoping that those who traditionally don’t vote will come out in numbers on September 18th

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond holds a Q&A session with youngsters during a visit to the Scottish Youth Theatre in Glasgow

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond holds a Q&A session with youngsters during a visit to the Scottish Youth Theatre in Glasgow

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 01:43

For more than two years the debate on Scottish independence has raged: often bitter, frequently contradictory and sometimes confusing.

Over the last couple of weeks, it has, however, ebbed a little – partly because of the summer holidays usually prompted by the arrival of the Glasgow Fair holiday in late July. it has marked a moment of relative calm before forces are marshalled for the final weeks of campaigning running up to September 18th, when voters will be faced with a straight Yes/No.

Just one of the nearly 70 opinion polls – some of them frankly questionable – of the last couple of years has put the “Yes” side ahead, but the gap between the sides varies widely.

One of the most recent, a TNS BMRB poll published last week, highlights the key group to be targeted in the final weeks: the undecided.

According to the pollsters, a quarter still do not know how they will vote - an extraordinarily high figure, if accurate, so late in the campaign.

Some of these voted in the past for Scottish Labour but switched allegiance in the 2011 Holyrood elections when the Scottish National Party made significant gains. However, the most important group of all are those who have never voted. In 2011, just four in 10 voted across Glasgow with just 35 per cent doing so in Glasgow Provan.

On September 18th, however, the turn-out is expected by both sides – Yes Scotland on the pro-independence side, “Better Together” for “No” – to be twice that number. If so, polling companies will struggle.

Much of the elusive cohort live in “the schemes”, the council estates in Scotland’s central belt , Glasgow and Edinburgh and the places in between, that have often stood as a byword for poverty. Ignored by Labour for decades, which was guaranteed victory without them, the group lies at the centre of the Scottish National Party’s belief that “Yes” can win.

The argument is that they have nothing in the Scotland that now exists so they have nothing to lose.

On Thursday, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond made a Braveheart-style call to such voters, declaring Glasgow – once the Second City of Empire – as “Freedom City”.

Labour remains the largest party in Glasgow local government, holding double the number of council seats of the SNP. It should give Labour a reach that the latter does not have, but in this campaign it may not.

Dispute

Divisions with Labour in London have not helped, partly the dispute over how much extra devolution should be offered if Scotland does reject independence. Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont wanted to offer more than Labour in London. Labour headquarters is fearful of the consequences more devolution could have on English opinion.

Equally, Labour leader, Ed Miliband’s decision not to distance himself from the British Government’s caps on welfare benefits has not gone down well in such districts.