By Alex Robertson
I read the accounts and reports of the Unionist Party referendum campaign launch with mounting levels of boredom. There was nothing new, no excitement or anticipation of anything really.
But then I realised that the world of referendum voters is split into three parts: decided YES voters who have made up their mind already, decided NO voters who have also made up their minds already, and the rest, making a group of people who are undecided, yet to be persuaded or convinced.
This last group have not made up their minds already and both the YES and the NO campaigns are aimed at them. And it is they who will decide the final outcome of the referendum.
The second thing that struck me was how boring this argument is becoming. Both sides make claims, the YES side make claims and the NO side make threats and scare-stories. Two years of this and, if that was all that was coming our way, perhaps everyone will have emigrated by the date of the referendum.
But the more I hear of both sides, the more I am convinced that the arguments presented by both sides will actually not have too much to do with which way the undecided Scots will vote. They will not believe the promises and prospects painted by the YES side, and nor will they believe the scare-stories or be won over by the warm fuzzy feelings of belonging-ness spun by the NO crowd.
I believe two factors will be what swings which way the undecided will vote.
The first factor is the state of Britain, the country folk are being invited to stay members of. News comes in currently of an English NHS Health Trust being bankrupted due to the disastrous and feckless folly of the last UK Labour government. And the recent YouGov poll reported in Newsnet Scotland shows that 70% of Scots just do not trust a Westminster government to take the right decisions for Scotland, and 80% rejected a Conservative Westminster government.
And if it is gently pointed out that Scots have very little say in who forms a future London government, and even less chance of mitigating the results of its feckless incompetence, that might end up being a winning argument.
Britain is broken, on the way down, living in some Walter Mitty warmongering Imperialistic world, and fiddling while people’s livelihoods go up in flames. Whether you believe the Britain of the past was a good thing or a bad, it is difficult to think Britain has much of a future at all.
The Public borrowing was £17.9Bn in May, £3Bn worse than the same time last year, and vivid demonstration, as Jonathon Portes of the National Institute for Social and Economic Studies said: that getting out of a debt crisis by cuts without economic growth is extremely difficult. More feckless incompetent government from Westminster. To be brutally frank, Britain is sinking and dragging Scotland down with it. And it will be ever thus.
The second, and I suspect more important, factor which will persuade the undecided voter is to consider how much would be gained by being able to make our own decisions when it comes to the economy, or defence, or foreign partnerships.
The freedom to decide, to manage our own affairs lies deep inside all of us, from teenage years on, and as a nation, it is as true collectively as individually. It is often asked why the SNP government is so well regarded by the Scots, as being competent and right thinking. In brief it is because it thinks only of Scottish interests, first and last.
Added to that is that its leaders are not all scrambling over one another to sit on the plush green and red leather benches in Westminster Palace. Freedom is sweet, and in history many thought sweet enough to die for, including a great many Scotsmen in the European civil wars of the 20th century.
And the freedom factor, I predict will swing the undecided Scot more than the fetid arguments we are in for during the runup to the referendum.