What now for the No campaign?

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
They were supposed to be cruising to victory.  Their tactics were basic yet effective, keep posing questions and keep highlighting concerns.
 
Even the revelation that insiders had christened their own scare tactics ‘Project Fear’ appeared not to harm Better Together as they continued twenty points clear, plodding towards the finish line and certain victory.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
They were supposed to be cruising to victory.  Their tactics were basic yet effective, keep posing questions and keep highlighting concerns.
 
Even the revelation that insiders had christened their own scare tactics ‘Project Fear’ appeared not to harm Better Together as they continued twenty points clear, plodding towards the finish line and certain victory.

But like the initial leader in the Grand National who romps off into a healthy lead, the No campaign is beginning to tire.  The Yes campaign is eating into its lead, and if the latest poll is to be believed, that lead is down to single digits.

The Yes campaign must be blinking in disbelief at it all.  Yes they started the year with momentum, but the shear scale of the disaster that has befallen the No camp is something they could not have expected.

Looking back, it’s clear what the No campaign strategy was.  Three set-piece events would stop the Yes momentum in its tracks.

Cameron’s love-bombing was to lull the Scottish Government into a false sense of security.  With Yes wrong-footed by the change in tack … BANG! Osborne would stun the nats with the currency grenade.  As the Yes campaign reeled, Labour and the Lib Dems would hit the indy flanks with their backing for Osborne.

The media would then join the rout with demands for a Plan B.

With Salmond and Swinney under pressure over currency, up would pop Jose Manuel Barroso with the EU trump card.

This was no clumsy attempt by Cameron to wrest control of the No campaign from the comatose Darling, for it was the Labour MP himself who coordinated the currency-threat troika that saw Ed Balls form his unholy alliance with Osborne and Alexander.

Looking back, it’s remarkable that the pro-Unionist alliance thought an Osborne visit to Edinburgh would work, but believe it they clearly did.

They hadn’t bargained for two things.  First was the backlash against Osborne, they appear to have been caught off guard by that.  Suggestions that Better Together ‘anticipated’ the initial backlash but believe long term they will benefit, can be taken with a pinch of salt, they have handed the Yes campaign a gift and if anything bolstered the momentum Yes had at the turn of the year.

The second blow was the extreme nature of Barroso’s comments when he first compared Scotland to Kosovo and then said it would be impossible for a newly independent Scotland to achieve EU membership.  The EC President’s comments have been ridiculed by academics and experts alike, some who don’t even back Yes.

Barroso has form when it comes to the independence referendum.  Despite refusing to engage the Scottish Government on the matter of EU membership, Barroso has bent over backwards to provide the House of Lords and the BBC with comments helpful to the Westminster Government.

But on this occasion his desire to help the anti-independence campaign got the better of him and he went too far.

And so we find ourselves here.  The Yes campaign is flying high in the polls and Salmond has turned the Osborne/Balls attack on its head.  People are now questioning why Labour allied themselves to the hated Tories who they view as bullies.

Yes is probably now well ahead of their own schedule as far as polling is concerned – and they haven’t had to lift a finger.

Labour in Scotland has been left exposed to the extent that Gordon Brown angrily stormed off of an STV interview when questioned about their currency alliance with the Tories.  It’s an uncomfortable alliance that Salmond will highlight at every opportunity.

The media was supposed to be taking pot-shots at a reeling Yes campaign but now finds itself relying on four words from an aging pop star in order to keep the anti-independence narrative going.

The Scottish Labour party conference in March now takes on greater significance.  Johann Lamont would have been hoping to announce a package of extra powers which would have consolidated the momentum gained by No.

Instead she finds herself having to come up with something that is credible enough to at least command the narrative and steer the debate away from the increasingly compelling Yes message.