Two years ago I founded the Scotland Institute, a new think tank for Scotland. Since then we have brought some of Scotland’s finest minds to bear on the biggest issue to face our country perhaps since the Act of Union in 1707: independence.
New and Popular on Scots Politics
The federal moment approaches but it may yet turn out to be as elusive as at previous periods of constitutional soul-searching. The accumulation of support for a federal settlement has been noticeable even if not always expressed in explicit terms. At the most basic, it’s typically framed in terms of a written constitution underpinning a newly formalised relationship between the nations of the UK and the centre. A reformed second chamber is also mentioned frequently. David Torrance usefully provided a representative sample of such opinion towards the end of Britain Rebooted: Scotland in a Federal Union. What was noticeable was its wide-sweep, embracing figures of left and right from different parts of the UK. But it also provoked questions about how such an expanse of opinion could coalesce and be brought to bear on the problems of governance and power. Furthermore, there was concern about how to generate the popular engagement that would be necessary to confer legitimacy on proceedings.
As we all know by now curtesy of Nicola Sturgeon, there are more Pandas in Scotland than there are Tory MPs. So why should Scotland then be governed from Westminster by a Conservative-led government? Sounds like a legitimate question, and even David Cameron acknowledges that it is a strong consideration for those supporting the YES campaign.
The past week has been uncomfortable for Better Together. Alistair Darling’s widely perceived defeat to Alex Salmond in the second of their televised jousts seemed to contribute to a narrowing of the opinion polls, while a campaign broadcast aiming to highlight the concern of undecided female voters has been criticised for being patronising and worse. Jim Murphy’s decision to temporarily halt his 100 streets tour has ensured searching questions have rightly been asked elsewhere but there is a sense that this doesn’t have the same implications in terms of determining the outcome of the referendum, ugly though it has been.
From 2 ½ years to just 2 ½ weeks. The end of the mammoth #IndyRef campaign is nigh! Soon, Scotland will soon have decided and we can try and return to some semblance of normality. Recapping her recent campaigning stories, Kate Higgins (aka @BurdzEyeView) posted a few of her ‘Tales from the Trail’ and a brilliant list of tips for those new (and not-so-new) to political campaigning. This inspired me to add to this list with some of my own. Some of these are about safety, some about satisfaction and some about sanity – but I hope that all of them are useful.
Another referendum day, another referendum opinion poll. At least the recent YouGov survey of more than 3,600 people in England, which was commissioned by Cardiff University and the ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change as part of the Future of England study, had an element of novelty to commend it. This was the first significant temperature-taking of opinion down south and how it was being influenced by the referendum mood music. Poll results, as we have surely come to learn, are like freshly cooked pasta in a colander; there to be tossed about before sauce and seasoning is added to the consumer’s liking.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey has delivered the latest batch of polling data for psephologists and political pugilists to digest. Particularly useful for monitoring the long-term development of public opinion, this week’s publication contained a number of headline-worthy results as the referendum campaign prepares to draw to an exhausted conclusion.