Last week, YouGov recorded its highest Yes vote yet, at 42% after don’t knows were excluded. No has a comfortable lead at 58%. But more worrying for Better Together, YouGov confirmed that many Scots still don’t believe the Chancellor’s claim that” if Scotland walks away from the UK it walks away from the pound”. 45% still think there will be a monetary union after independence against 38% who think Scotland will lose the pound. Voters also seem to be defying the scare that Scotland would be thrown out of Europe if it votes Yes. 46% believe Scotland would remain a member of the EU, according to YouGov, against 32% who think not.
This is serious stuff. A credibility gulf appears to be swallowing the two key issues on which the No campaign chose to fight this battle: Europe and the Pound. The attempt to threaten Scots with economic ruin and political exclusion is not working. Indeed, it may have been counter-productive. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey last week confirmed what we knew anecdotally that Yes voters are far more likely actually to vote in September than the No supporters. This is the problem with a campaign based on fear and threats – it tends to induce to apathy and lack of motivation rather than determination to act.
Perhaps this faltering of momentum for No explains last week’s rather desperate attempt to turn the referendum into a verdict, not about Scotland’s future, but about Alex Salmond’s character. Every utterance of Alex Salmond is now ripped out of context, twisted around and reinserted into a bogus narrative that Scotland’s First Minister is an apologist for Vladimir Putin, supports Tory tax cuts, thinks Scotland is a nation of drunks and feels political affinity with UKIP’s Nigel Farage. This is not robust journalism; it is the politics of the smear. A change, perhaps, from saying that Scotland would be thrown out of Europe or the Pandas be sent home, but nastier
What Salmond actually said in the GQ magazine interview was: “Well, obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia. He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing”. That’s pretty much a statement of fact and what most commentators on Russia had been saying. Remember, this interview was anyway conducted before the annexation of the Crimea.
Maybe Salmond should have realised these remarks would be turned against him and zipped his mouth. But accusing Salmond of being an apologist for Putin is rather like saying that David Cameron is an apologist for fascism because he supported the Maidan demonstrations in Kiev, which involved the active participation of a number of far right organisations. Actually, I am distinctly uneasy about the new regime in Ukraine and the way it has been promoted by NATO – not least because it was installed after the militant overthrow of an elected president.
No doubt some will say that makes me an apologist for Viktor Yanukovych and his appalling taste in interior design, but I am not. However, the fact remains that the Ukrainian president could have been removed by conventional means as early as 2015. Replacing an elected leader, even a distinctly unpleasant one, with a junta that includes self-proclaimed national socialists leaves the new regime’s democratic credentials just a little shaky. The situation in Kiev is very fluid, contradictory and dangerous, and trying to press it into an ideological mould fashioned by the Cold War does not help. Putin is not Stalin.
I’m not even going to bother with the nonsense about Alex Salmond calling Scots are “a nation of drunks” – he said we had a drink problem which is beyond doubt. Or that he is a mate of Nigel Farage and supports tax cuts for the rich. Could anyone imagine the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, supporting a leader who stood for those things? Or Alex Neil or any of the Scottish cabinet. Could you imagine Scots voters electing Salmond as First Minister if he stood for Tory economic policies or had racist tendencies? I cannot think of any two politicians who are less alike than the UKIP leader and a First Minister who supports the European Union, unilateral nuclear disarmament, green energy, open borders, increased immigration etc..But there is a section of the UK media, including some on the metropolitan Left, who are determined to portray Alex Salmond as a neo fascist because they are unable to comprehend the concept of civic nationalism.