Referendum Debate Is Alex Salmond’s Last Chance

It is last chance saloon for Alex Salmond’s hopes of securing a Yes vote in next month’s referendum.

Today’s debate will mark the final opportunity for the First Minister to change the game. History is not on his side.

The final month of referendum campaigns around the world, over the past quarter of a century, has seen an average swing of nearly 12% towards the status quo, according to Alan Renwick of Reading University.

Voters prefer known devils.

This is precisely what the Yes campaign describes as the Better Together “No” campaign’s “Project Fear”.

It explains why Alistair Darling’s campaign has ruthlessly focused on the issue of currency, an issue the Yes campaign cannot credibly communicate an answer on.

It illustrates that an independent Scotland “sharing the pound” would be far from sovereign over its economy.

For Scotland, so-called “devo-max” within the UK could be seen as a greater degree of independence than “sovereignty-lite” outside it.

It would be a dependent independence, and an uncertain one.

Now layer that upon the settled numbers of the campaign.

About 30% are definite Yes. Around 34% are definite Nos.

The remaining 36% are split – 22% No according to the polls, and 14% Yes – but are soft.

All the No campaign has had to do is persuade the undecided voters: “There is a risk here. Is it really worth taking it?”.

Project Fear has worked thus far.

Mr Salmond’s challenge has been to de-risk the currency issue. He needs a high score draw on the messy but fundamental issue of the pound.

After the skirmishes following the Governor of the Bank of England’s speech, and the subsequent Unionist parties’ announcement refusing a currency union, perhaps Mr Salmond thought he already had that.

No one sane is arguing that an independent Scotland could not eventually find a stable currency arrangement.

The problem is it entails risk, uncertainty, and negotiation.

It is a particular hazard to Scotland’s financial services industry.

Would the First Minister have been better served by simply saying: “The Scottish people will decide on their currency during separation negotiations”?

Either way, Mr Salmond has clearly not done enough to de-risk this issue.

Could he deliver something game-changing tonight? Rather, it seems he might be launching a Project Fear of his own.

He will be focusing on “protecting the NHS” from another “Tory” government’s reforms.

Mr Darling will be cast as protector of the English Conservatives’ constitutional right to reform the health service in Scotland.

Yes voters seem more committed than nos, according to the polls, and, anecdotally, from social media.

Most Scots want most of their governing to come from Edinburgh.

The “don’t knows” had been breaking for Yes. Some of the polls suggest that was the case even after the apparently disastrous first TV debate.

“Of course we are going to win,” one leading Nationalist politician told me last month.

But Mr Salmond has it all to do tonight. He needs that score draw on currency, and then an extra-time winner.

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25 August 2014 | 6:41 am – Source:

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