The Yes Scotland campaign often attracts criticism for not doing enough to win round voters, that its strategy isn’t working and, occasionally, that heads must roll. Although the lowly poll ratings in favour of independence are frustrating, it is difficult to criticise the individuals that are flogging every hour of their day to increase the chances of victory, particularly as they are up against the perfect resistance.
It’s also difficult to ignore the notion that the Scottish public generally isn’t going out of its way to learn about the facts and details that will help to shape an informed view this side of September 18th. Scotland Tonight viewing figures can’t compete with Dancing on Ice, and newspaper circulations are dwindling faster than Iphone 5s are flying off the shelves. An uninspired and under-exercised electorate is unlikely to break one way or the other if people just want to be left alone to get on with their day.
This intransigence is aided and abetted by a Better Together campaign that is pulling any green shoots of intelligent debate into the mud and only postponing detail of further devolution until after the next election. Nine months to go and they’re already playing for a scoreless draw. An understandable approach, but a dastardly, short-sighted one nonetheless.
I am open to cogent, logical arguments as to why Scotland is better off in the UK, indeed I am desperate to hear some to soften the blow of a likely No result in Autumn, but other than romantic notions regarding a great Britain that no longer exists, I am yet to find a rationale any better than ‘it’s just not worth the bother’.
My fear therefore is that a No vote in September won’t really mean No, but Don’t Know. Or worse, Don’t Care.
The media is jointly and severally culpable in this intellectual torpor, seemingly picking and choosing stories and headlines that won’t rock the boat, rather than electrifying us with analysis and opinion pieces that the nation simply can’t ignore. A case in point of this selective approach is the story that wasn’t reported this week – the potentially game-changing study that Europe would have a lot to lose from allowing newly independent nations like Scotland to drop out the club. Against a backdrop of regular, front-page EU scare stories and a constant, lonely, Spanish refrain that Scotland’s not wanted, what other conclusion is one to reach regarding this omission other than that journalists turned a blind eye?
Don’t get me wrong, the SNP didn’t win the 2011 election with a majority because Scots were crying out for a referendum. They won it because Labour were a Subway-sheltering shambles. There’s a school of thought that even Salmond didn’t want this referendum at this time, but we are where we are and an important decision needs to be made, and for the right reasons.
Perhaps the answer then is for a third campaign to be launched, a drive to urge people to not vote if they feel they don’t know enough. The independence referendum is not a vote on Salmond’s popularity, it’s not a census on how confident or otherwise Scots feel and it’s certainly not an anti-English plebiscite.
If you don’t have a personal vision of what an independent Scotland could achieve as a fully fledged country then by all means don’t vote Yes, but if you are equally clueless on the future of the UK, be it unthinking on the future of devolution, blinded to whether the Tories will get back in in 2015 or ignorant of whether the UK might pull out of the EU in 2017, for pity’s sake don’t vote No either.