How do those of us who want Scotland to stay in the UK turn things around after Yes poll lead?

The news that the Yes campaign has taken the lead in a You Gov poll just 11 days before the referendum on Scotland’s independence is worrying. Everyone is nervous and jittery. Yes campaigners, daring to hope that they are on the verge of an historic victory will be motivated and scared in equal measures. For those of us who don’t want to see our country split up, it’s, well, squeaky bum time. However there is another poll today which shows No slightly ahead. The news is not all bleak.

This is far from over, though. The atmosphere is tense and febrile. Yes supporters confidently display their badges and posters but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve spoken to enthusiastic No voters who say they won’t put up a poster because they are worried about it being vandalised. It was noticeable in Edinburgh yesterday that “No thanks” posters were appearing, but on the top floors of tenements, out of stone and egg range. People shouldn’t have to feel like this.

So how do pro-UK supporters regain the momentum? Only a month ago, after the first debate, we were 22% ahead in the polls. At the moment we are anywhere between 6% ahead and 2% behind.

I don’t intend to rehearse the many failings of the Better Together campaign. That can, and should, be done at leisure after 18th September. The on-the-ground Better Together campaigners are fantastic but they have been let down by strategic decisions and organisation which combine the worst of Yes to AV with the best of The Thick of It.  They just don’t seem to be on the same wavelength with the Scottish public. How anyone could have thought the recent Party Political Broadcast featuring a woman’s clumsy and contrived monologue was in any way appropriate is beyond me. Robust analysis of the Yes campaign’s proposals was always going to be necessary but every bass needs a melody to make it palatable and that just hasn’t happened.  Given that there is so much to inspire about our shared history, heritage, culture and achievements, that is a tragedy.

Find the passion

Yes Scotland says it’s a positive campaign but in fact, behind the froth on the top is something deeply negative. They tell us that we live in some sort of hellish wasteland from which independence is the only deliverance. Actually, we live in a wonderful place, with creative, inventive, industrious people. The UK has one of the strongest economies in the world, it leads the way on human rights, LGBT rights, is the second biggest aid donor in the world, has the finest public broadcaster and the best health service which is accessible to all. It isn’t perfect. More needs to be done to tackle poverty and inequality across the whole UK but independence is not the change that will make everything better.

This week George Monbiot told us that rejecting independence was an “astonishing act of self harm.” I’ve seen Yes people complain that No voters are stupid or too scared to see the advantages in independence and that in some way we’re psychologically flawed by not wanting change. Please don’t confuse my wanting to stay in the UK with an acceptance of the status quo. I’m a liberal. We shake things up. It’s what we’re for. We challenge established authority. We give power away. It’s our instinct. There is a part of me that feels that it’s slightly counter-intuitive not to go for the change. For me, the priority is a liberal, compassionate, caring society and that’s what I’ll continue to fight for whatever the result on 19th September. What’s on offer from the Yes campaign puts so much of what we rely on, a stable currency being the most obvious thing, in jeopardy without offering a realistic chance of creating that fairer society. Those who would suffer most if it all goes wrong are the most vulnerable. And given that the Institute of Fiscal Studies says that an independent Scotland would be £6bn short, those people would lose an awful lot of support and services.

Staying in the UK offers the further enrichment of our vibrant democracy in Scotland with more powers whilst spreading the risk in these globally turbulent times. One of the real tragedies of the last 7 years since the SNP have been in Government is that they have not used the powers they’ve got to anything like their potential. They’ve just moaned that they don’t have enough powers. During the first 8 years, the Lib Dem/Labour coalition showed off what they could do and brought in some revolutionary stuff, free personal care, PR for local government, the smoking ban, free eye and dental checks. We need to get back to that sort of reforming state of mind and make things happen.

In the next 10 days, I want to hear from people who can articulate that positive, reforming message and take people with them. Charles Kennedy is good at it. Jim Wallace has actually brought in some pretty bold reforms in his time. Nobody articulates the passion for social justice better than young Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale. She was fantastic in the last televised debate last week. There are still hard arguments to be won on currency because no option that the SNP has put forward is as good as using the pound from within the UK. I’m not suggesting we should abandon the facts completely. We can’t let Yes off the hook, but we have to inject some passion and fun into the campaign. Gordon Brown has also been more visible recently. He is more trusted by Labour voters than Darling according to the YouGov poll. One very interesting thing, as an aside, is that 75% of Conservative voters trust Darling, yet only 40% trust Brown.

How do you solve a problem like David?

In Quebec, when the pro-independence campaign was five points ahead at the end of the campaign, the Canadian Prime Minister intervened and made a game-changing emotional appeal for them to stay part of Canada. The last thing that Scots need is David Cameron, a man that most of us have no time for at all, doing that. I know he’s the Prime Minister and should be seen to be fighting for the UK, but there is a very good reason Alex Salmond wanted to debate him. There does need to be an emotional appeal, though and we should look to national treasures rather than anyone else to deliver it.

Emphasise the irreversibility

A Yes vote is for your life, your child’s life, your grandchild’s life and for centuries to come. There is no going back if it doesn’t work out. That message has to be hammered home at every opportunity.

Deal with the Yes Lies effectively

It’s only recently that the Yes campaign has made NHS funding an issue in the campaign. Part of their narrative, along with the Bedroom Tax, has always been an assertion, unchallenged by Better Together, that the NHS in England has been privatised. In recent weeks they’ve been saying that future NHS funding is threatened by the use of private services in England.  The Scottish Government has full control over the NHS and can spend what it likes on it. Now who’s scaremongering? This line of arguing is so obviously not true yet it seems to be working for Yes.

I’ve also seen social media posts from Yes supporters which show that they think there will be no Work Capablility Assessment, no ATOS, no sanctions in a Scottish welfare state. Nowhere does the White Paper say this. It has some rather woolly language about a fairer system but doesn’t spell it out. Nor does it commit to restore the £2.5 billion cuts already made to benefits in Scotland.

Better Together needs to sort this out and make sure their people on the ground have the right arguments to make on the doorsteps.

Be visible and talk to as many voters as possible

One of the lesser known aspects of today’s YouGov poll is that it shows that Better Together is being comprehensively out-campaigned by Yes at every single level. Compare and contrast:

Yes campaign activity


Better Together campaign activity

Almost 1 in 4 respondents had heard nothing from the Better Together campaign. The corresponding figure for Yes was 1 in 8. At every level, the intensity of Yes is significantly greater. So, I’d say for everyone who wants Scotland to stay in the UK, get out there. Knock on doors. Set up stalls. Talk to your friends and family. Make phone calls. We have a lot of catching up to do. The field work for next weekend’s polls will start in a couple of days time. We want to show that gap being closed. And we need stalls and noise and presence and visibility. Yes were everywhere in Edinburgh yesterday. When we were in the Highlands last week there were a whole load of them

The UK will be on probation if there’s a no vote

There is very little chance of this vote now being decisive enough to put the issue of independence to bed for a generation. If the UK doesn’t deliver on not just more powers but greater social justice as well, then Scots will insist on another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon has already talked about doing it all again in 5 years if we vote no. We need to get those people back who want a Federal UK but are voting yes. It’s important that these people believe that the chance of achieving that goal is better after a No vote. It certainly isn’t after a Yes vote which is irreversible.  The likely narrow no vote is the option which gives people the most power. Voting yes would be handing it over to an SNP establishment which is very comfortable with power and for all the talk of a written constitution, is unlikely to want to cede much. The fact that it’s centralised everything that sits still for more than two minutes shows that. The very last thing I want to do is to trust them with more power. Imagine what Clear Desk Kenny MacAskill would do with counter-terrorism measures.

Osborne’s talk of an announcement this week setting out some sort of pathway to more powers is welcome but it’s no more than Alistair Carmichael and Willie Rennie have been saying for a long time.  I’ve never thought it was a good idea for the three political parties to stitch something up between them. A constitutional convention which involves civil society and the SNP is, for me, vital. People need to know that they have a chance to influence the way they are governed if they vote No.

The Labour Party in particular will have to get its finger out and offer some real hope to the people who have been politically engaged by the Yes campaign. It’s been a long time since they have connected with these people. It is now essential that they work out how to do so, particularly if they find themselves in government next May.

A positive, reforming future

We have 10 days to convince people that Scotland has a promising future within the UK. We can do it. Let’s not fail.




* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • The lib dems refusing to ever go into coalition with the tories again would swing a few votes back to no I reckon.

  • Jacquie Bell 7th Sep '14 - 5:12pm

    Myself and Barry Turner my former East Lothian Council Colleague in Musselburgh have been working hard for the Pro Union campaign. It is a cross party campaign.
    Sadly, in speaking to campaigners from other parties we are the only Lib Dems to take part in the East Lothian NO campaign This saddens me greatly..

  • For the Lib Dems, the answer to the question is to leave the coalition with immediate effect and get this Tory Government which they are propping up out of power..

  • You have no time for David Cameron yet you are happy to be dominated by him in a coalition. Strange.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Sep '14 - 5:35pm

    Far from dominated. When did you ever see a Tory Government cut taxes for the lowest paid and give extra money to disadvantaged kids in school?

  • Give over Caron, this is pittance after the cuts you agreed to. First time in Government in god knows how long and it looks like half the country’s going to go missing. Have you no shame?

  • Alex Dingwall 7th Sep '14 - 6:02pm

    On Osborne more powers story Alistair Darling told SkyNews: “These powers have already been announced”. So literally nothing new.

    Our party has expended a vast amount of resources, campaign time and electoral standing on a campaign that is not about delivering UK Federalism or Scottish Home Rule. And it is clear from Darling that nothing is going to be put on the table after a No vote that is not already in the Scotland Act.

    When he was appointed to chair our Home Rule Commission, Ming Campbell said the status quo was inadequate but members and supporters are being asked to vote for it anyway in the hope that Labour or the Conservatives would embrace Ming’s recommendations. It is abundantly clear they won’t.

    On 18 September 2014, the only options on the ballot are the status quo or Independence.

    There is no second chance to grasp this opportunity.

  • Correction, Caron. Cut taxes also for higher paid!

  • Andy with respect that is grossly over the top. No one on this site is probably more critical of the Clegg leadership and the problems it has brought the party. However when you remember the appalling state of the country at the end of the last government, that letter saying “there is no money left” speaks volumes, then at least I accept that the country overall has benefited. Nothing in life is 100% perfect, not even 95% and that is no different in running the country. It is easy to carp and to find the negatives. Among the many winners there are losers and they must fully compensated now that things are better.

  • theakes, I used to be a Lib Dem voter. Sorry, but I never bought the stuff about Labour being responsible for the recession, when it was so evidently a banking crisis that was a global issue. and neither did the general public. It had more to do with the government you are propping up and their seedy friends in the City.

    The Lib Dems have done many things in government they said they would never do, and that included the austerity measures which they were opposed to before they got their 30 pieces of silver. I hold the Lib Dems partly responsible for this mess we have gotten ourselves into. They have propped up this right wing Tory Government which has done so much damage to our society.

  • stuart moran 7th Sep '14 - 6:41pm


    Are things much better?

    I take you back to that prognostic for 2015 from Osborne and Alexander regarding the deficit

    Remind me how we are doing against that and how well has GDP/capita been doing?

    How much money have we used in QE thanks to the fact we are outside the Euro? Which party had a policy of joining the Euro by the way?

    I do not blame the LD for all these ills but trying to pretend it is much better now that at the time of the crash is looking very much through tinted specs and it is only the top earners who have done well over the last few years.

    By pretending such undermines the arguments you are trying to make and suggests to me that you are as divorced from reality as Clegg – why remove him if you think things are better. For me and my family and friends they most definitely not….

  • 1 year ago I’d have never considered voting for independence. Now whilst it is still unlikely that I would vote for it I have to be honest and say that I’ll struggle to put a cross in the No box, so I might just not vote at all since I don’t really want to break up this country nor do I feel that I can endorse the status quo by voting no.

    I guess, for me at least, knowing that a no vote is not an endorsement of the status quo would make me more likely to actually vote no. Unfortunately I believe it is though, at least that is how my vote will be read. If it is a no vote then I know full well that the Tories and Labour will read this the way they want too, that everything is fine and dandy and we can all get back to business as usual.

    I think the powers in Westminster have behaved pretty badly in this referendum. They took our commitment to the union for granted, have lead a patronizing campaign telling people not to listen to others, that a no vote was a reckless gamble with their kids future, that we are to weak to manage on our own, that they’ll deny us our share of the assets of the bank of england. It’s just been threats and patronizing drivel from the Lib/Con/Lab parties. I don’t believe they meant to behave this way mind you, I think they are so out of touch and really don’t know how to do anything else. This is why the SNP can come from so far behind and win, because the SNP (despite Salmond’s faults) is a grassroots party that actually understands Scotland. I honestly couldn’t imagine Nick Clegg or David Cameron even talking to people on a council estate.

    We have been told that if we vote know then they’ll be more powers for holyrood etc, but without specific promises it is difficult to believe that. Even with specific promises it is hard to believe that, I remember Nick promising to vote against tuition fees for example.

    Another problem is we have a Tory government in number 10. If the Lib Dems had allowed a vote 5 years ago they’d have got credit for the good job the SNP did in their first term and without the cuts and Tories in number 10 to fuel resentment I’m sure there would have been a no vote. If a yes vote happens then the refusal to even allow the Scots to have their say the first time round will be instrumental in independence happening.

    Anyway, to answer Caron’s question, these are the two things that might help get a no vote.

    1. Make sure people understand that a no vote is not an endorsement of the status quo.
    2. Make specific promises about new powers that Scotland will get and when. Have all three parties agree. I mean big powers. Power like Barnett to end and all taxes raised in Scotland (including offshore oil and gas taxes) are set in Scotland and spent in Scotland minus our per capita share of defense and foreign aid etc.

  • Andy I give up on you.

  • @stuart moran “I do not blame the LD for all these ills but trying to pretend it is much better now that at the time of the crash is looking very much through tinted specs and it is only the top earners who have done well over the last few years. ” – If the to 10% get richer and the bottom 10% get poorer and everyone else stays the same but GDP as a whole is up so that there is economic growth that would be trumpeted by all three unionist parties as success. It is the reason a lot of people in council estates who don’t normally vote in a general election will vote Yes. Because this vote (unlike a general election) will actually change something.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Sep '14 - 7:36pm

    Mr Wallace – Not getting at you.

    ‘Because this vote (unlike a general election) will actually change something.’ Do you really believe that or do you WANT to believe that?

    Don’t get me wrong, if I lived in Scotland I’d likely vote yes simply because I’d want to believe that there could be something different. But I wouldn’t be 100% confident that I’d get the real change I want.

  • “So how do pro-UK supporters regain the momentum? Only a month ago, after the first debate, we were 22% ahead in the polls. At the moment we are anywhere between 6% ahead and 2% behind.”

    I would suggest not being panicked. The 22% was a Yougov outlier. The 2% was a Yougov outlier. Keep your nerve.

  • Denis Mollison 7th Sep '14 - 7:58pm

    On the NHS, the two threats from UK policy are (1) downward pressure on Scottish NHS budget because of link to rUK spending, (2) forced privatisation through TTIP – the UK government could exempt the NHS from TTIP but are not planning to.

    Their may be answers to these threats, but they seem real enough to me – not “lies”.

  • So the Scots have a choice between a government of Cameron, Clegg, Osbourne, Alexander, Duncan Smith etc or an independent Scottish one – the No campaigners really have a uphill battle on their hands. I also think lowering the voting age has helped the Yes campaign – change holds little fear to the young.

  • Stephen Donnelly 7th Sep '14 - 8:01pm

    Ignoring the off subject Labour trolls……

    The betting is still on a no vote: most book makers are giving 13/8 up to 2/1 for a ‘yes’. So the message is don’t panic but work hard.

    Caron says ‘The UK will be on probation if there’s a no vote’, but similarly a small ‘yes’ vote will not resolve the issue. It would do no harm for politicians of all parties to accept that the closeness of this result is a game changer, even Rupert Murdoch seems to have recognised that in a tweet over the weekend by referring to it as a ‘Huge Black eye for the whole political establishment’.

    Any settlement must ultimately be for the whole UK and not just Scotland. but there is an opportunity to reopen the constitutional change debate.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Sep '14 - 8:27pm

    There is a scenario, Stephen, where every single Scottish Council area votes No, but Glasgow votes Yes and its size gives it enough to put independence over 50%. That’s a huge worry. They only have to win by one vote across the whole country. I doubt you’ll get the SNP being particularly bothered about it, even though they complain about Westminster not giving us the governments we vote for. The solution to that, of course, is PR for Westminster, not independence.

  • Caron, you kow my views. I would be delighted by a YES vote. So maybe advice from me might not be welcome.
    I have lived in South West London for more than fifty years but I have close family in Scotland, Rosemary grew up in Glasgow, went to Edinburgh University and her mum still lives in Pollokshields. We have other family and close friends in Scotland a small majority of whom have already or will on the day vote YES. Not a representative sample but I mention all that just to show that despite being in London I am not entirely cut off from the debate as it has developed over the last forty years since the 74 General Election.
    The report in The Scotsman about Dundee ( YES CITY) underlines some key pointers that the Unionists especially the Labour Party have failed to understand. People living in the schemes who long ago gave up on Labour and have been ignored by all the unionist parties are apparently where a huge YES vote has gone under the radar. It is too late for you to reach them even if they have not voted already.
    The YES campaign has been firmly rooted at community level, whereas the Unionists parties are clearly based in and dominated by London – it is too late to do anything about that.
    Much of the unionist campaign has been a bit like remote drone attacks or aerial,bombing by out of touch politicians complacent in their Westminster bunkers. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are vote losers in Scotland, even more so than in England, which in Clegg’s case takes some doing. it is too late to do anything about that.

    I would suggest that you forget about Quebec and stop mentioning it. It is not relevant and will not cut any ice with folks in the Dundee schemes or anywhere else.

    I don’t know if you believe in the power of prayer but that might be the only option left to you. Or maybe a rabbit’s foot for luck. It is simply too late for any more unconvincing deathbed conversions by died in the wool unionists with whom Liberals should never have taken sides in the first place.

    You might win the referendum Caron but if you do by a narrow majority the chickens will really come home to roost when the London leaders forget about their last minute offers of greater devolution and carry on with the same old complacent status quo.

    The unionist policy in reality boils down to continued rule from London by a tiny clique from Eton, St Paul’s and Westminster schools if that is what you get it will be a sad day for all of us.

  • Stephen Donnelly, thanks for the info on betting odds. I suggest all Lib Dem local party treasurers put a few quid. on YES. They can use their winnings to pay for theirlost deposit in next year’s General Election. 🙂

  • paul barker 7th Sep '14 - 9:22pm

    The first thing is not to look panicked. Lets wait & see what ICM says, they were the only Pollster to get The AV referendum right. Although its not strictly rational we know that Voters can be intimidated into hiding their real opinions from Polling firms. It happened with shy Tories & its happening now to Libdem Voters & No supporters.

  • @ Caron “Emphasise the irreversibility. A Yes vote is for your life, your child’s life, your grandchild’s life and for centuries to come. There is no going back if it doesn’t work out. That message has to be hammered home at every opportunity.” – Himmmm, that sounds to me like code for, you might not be able to make it on your own you know. Poor little weak Scotland might not be able to manage without England holding it’s hand, so think before you leave the nest because there is no coming back. Pretty negative message that really. Might work on some, for me it’s just the sort of think that pi**es me off.

  • paulbarker, are you taking on the role of the Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army? “Don’t panic! Don’tpanic! Mr Mainwaring”

    Meanwhile Private Fraser the Scot simply intones “We are all doomed!”. 🙂

  • Owen Jones in. the Guardian — If Scotland votes for independence next week, it is the British establishment – and the establishment alone – that is to blame. The yes surge is not being driven by blood-and-soil nationalism, by dewy-eyed Celtic nostalgia or the resurrection of a Braveheart spirit. It is a defiant protest at a bankrupt order built by Margaret Thatcher and then preserved and entrenched by New Labour. David Cameron’s Conservatives will bear most responsibility for the break-up of the country, but the last government and a hollowed-out Scottish Labour party cannot escape the blame.

  • David Allen 8th Sep '14 - 12:28am

    “How do those of us who want Scotland to stay in the UK turn things around after Yes poll lead?”

    Well, you’d probably have managed it, if you had just done nothing at all. The Quebec effect tells us that, faced with the choice between voting for an irreversible break versus voting to kick the can down the road, a substantial fraction of separatist supporters panic at the last moment, and vote for the latter. You should have relied on that.

    Instead, you in BT have run around like headless chickens, and come up with last-minute promises which are just blatantly panic measures. The SNP have had little difficulty in finding a response: that when BT wait for hundreds of thousands of postal voters to vote, and then pretend that they are suddenly making new game-changing promises – well, you can’t trust them, can you?

    Oh well, says BT, it doesn’t really matter. So, you don’t trust our constitutional convention, the precise devo-max concessions we might make, etc. Not a big issue. Truth to tell, we haven’t thought these boring details through. But look, if you Yessers lose narrowly and vow not to drop the subject, we know we’ll have to buy you off, somehow. So, it doesn’t matter that you don’t trust us. Just wait until after the vote, wait for our offer, and we’ll sort out a deal which you will buy from us.

    But – Sorry BT, you’re wrong about that. Because you, and your secular preacher Mr Darling, have relied throughout the campaign on being boring, negative, and trustworthy. You have told the Scottish voters to take it on trust, to trust you, that an independent Scotland will not cope in the financial stakes. You have pulled long faces and told us we must trust your better judgment. And now, suddenly, you have shown that you are not at all trustworthy! You have shown that you will say or promise anything at all, irrespective of its truth, if you think it will help you!

    Suddenly, you have knocked a gaping hole in your own case.

    So, now, thanks to capping a terrible campaign with implausible last-minute overclaims, you will probably lose.

    We will probably all suffer badly. The arguments between Scotland and rUK about money will run for a decade. Muddles about being in or out of the EU will kybosh all sides, and quite possibly will kybosh the whole EU as well. The Yes campaign, who are morally in the right, will probably fail to convert their ideals of a fairer Scottish society into any sort of reality. Not that I blame them for trying.

    I blame the British establishment – in line with Owen Jones – for its failure, which John Tilley describes clearly. He is right to say that the Tories are primarily culpable. He is right to say that Blair / Brown Labour must also share the blame. There is also a third party who are equally at fault. Step forward, Nick Clegg and the Orange Book Team.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 1:07am

    Some more points to help the No campaign:

    1. UK is not a failed state. It is ranked the 14th most democratic in the world according to the Democracy Index, higher than the United States and France. Plus, more powers are coming.
    2. A No vote provides more opportunities for Scottish citizens – Alistair Carmichael gets this across well.
    3. A Yes vote will make it harder for businesses to serve people outside of Scotland. Different legal environments can trap businesses and professionals. People want to be qualified to work in the whole of the UK, not just Scotland.
    4. Possible border controls and Visa applications required to leave Scotland if there are significant differences in policy.
    5. Possible interest rates that no one in Scotland votes for.
    6. Harder to stand up to the powerful when you are smaller.
    7. Federalism is the consensus opinion and only possible with a no vote.
    8. Scotland is free to leave and everyone will work for a successful Scotland regardless of the vote.


  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 1:48am

    Owen Jones has just written an article for the Guardian that I would value at about £10. I can’t believe the Guardian promotes this rubbish. The Guardian has been harmful to the No campaign. Half of the stuff it produces is good, the other half if click-bait nonsense. Time to realise who is on our side.

  • Eddie Sammon
    Hi Eddies, is this the article that has got your goat?

    Link to Owen Jones full piece –

    I thought it was an interesting and clear statement of his case. The criticism of New Labour is surely one which most Liberal Democrats would share in the context of the Scotland debate. Why do you object to it so much?

  • Paul in Wokingham 8th Sep '14 - 6:46am

    That piece in The Guardian is interesting: it chimes with a comment I made in the members’ forum 20 minutes before The Guardian’s article was published, although because I’m quoting zerohedge it is inevitably rather more conspiracy-oriented:

    Zerohedge (the frequently paranoid but always interesting anti-hedge fund site run by financial geeks in the USA) is currently leading on “UK in full panic mode: rains brimstone, bribes on Scotland”. A fairly accurate synopsis. In the end the zerohedge writer (all articles are penned by “Tyler Durden”) concludes with typical cynicism that Scotland will not become independent because too many people have (both individually and collectively) too much to lose from allowing it to happen.

    The implication that there are forces that would not permit a part of one of the anglo-american nations to go off and remodel itself as a Scandinavian-style democracy, rejecting the kleptocratic model of government that has dominated since 1980, is oddly plausible.

  • Stephen Donnelly

    Ignoring the off subject Labour trolls……

    It will be Labour voters who save the Union. Try listening to them for once.

    The coalition are the perfect storm for Salmond’s strategy, this has been acknowledged for some time. Wildly unpopular in Scotland, few Scottish MPs, and those they do have are being vilified, with considerable justification, as enablers of Tory policies that voters in Scotland rejected in 2010 – don’t forget, Labour INCREASED their vote then.

    The lib dems need to do something drastically anti-Tory in the next few days if they are to do anything.

  • Owen Jones isn’t just blaming New Labour. Lib Dems are in it up to our necks. We have followed the nasty neoliberal agenda for years. Just yesterday George Osborne casually mentioned a policy to reduce welfare which says it all.
    Lib Dems are in no position to address this because Clegg has permanently destroyed our credibility.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Sep '14 - 8:55am

    “Caron you’ve been calling for a positive yes campaign from the start”

    Thanks, Caractacus, but I think you mean “no”:-). And I have. All the things I was worried about in terms of our messaging have come home to roost.

    And if Darling’s interview on the Today programme is anything to go by, the message isn’t getting through yet. He sounded whiny and petulant. He needs not just to sound but to be ambitious and positive.

  • Presumably a lot of people have already voted by post.I suspect a majority of No votes there. We always have to remember the crucial postal vote these days much of which occurs before the high profile campaigning of the last 10 -14 days of any election. After all without that postal vote the Lib Dems would probably have lost Eastleigh!

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 9:10am

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your polite comment. Two main reasons why I objected to his article so much:

    1. He plays on the idea that Scotland is full of socialists.
    2. He repeats the myth about the Thatcherite consensus. 0.5% interest rates and £375 billion printed is a lot different to the 80s and early 90s when we were doing the opposite and putting interest rates up to 10, 12 and 15%. It wasn’t sustainable, which was why we crashed out of the ERM, and the status quo isn’t sustainable either.


  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 9:12am

    By the way John, yes that article is the one I was referring to. 🙂

  • stuart moran 8th Sep '14 - 10:00am


    I would also like a more positive ‘No’ campaign but the problem is that ‘No’ is not a positive word

    The advantage for ‘Yes’ is they can sell a dream and also can say by voting Yes the elections and decisions will reflect the will of the Scots without having to pander to the few hundred thousand swing voters in English suburbia. This is an attractive message and is difficult to counter

    The ‘No’ side can sell what has been good for Scotland as part of the Union but the status quo is quite boring really and also there is a Tory Government in power that helps reinforce the messages from the Nationalists. It can’t be that easy being a member of the biggest Unionist Party having the policies of the Coalition used to explain why someone is voting Yes, when he agrees with the person making the comments. I am not surprised a lot of Labour voters are seeing this as an opportunity to be rid of a Tory Government for years to come (if not ever) and it is not easy for Labour to counter that with enthusiasm is it?

    Devo Max may have been a good point to sell but it isn’t on the table – and any late move towards it would be cynical in the extreme. The referendum and the conditions was agreed to do by the UK Government so it is difficult to blame Labour for this one, although a lot seem to want to pin the blame on them if there is a loss

    I doubt we would be considering a split if there was a Labour Government in power and it would be interesting to see how strong the Yes vote is if there is a change of Government in 2015.

    The fact is that if the Scots vote Yes next Thursday then I am not sure the English public would be in favour of any concessions to keep you in….this is not a game of dare but I am not sure all Yes voters are aware of the implications

    I am not sure what the result will be – perhaps we will see a repeat of Quebec where fear of the unknown will prevail. If the Nationalists do not win this time then will they have a better chance? I am not sure and will probably depend on what happens down South and whether there is more power seceded

    My own view though is the die was cast when Scotland turned vehemently against the Tories, followed by the rise of the Nationalists as a response to Blair. The return of a Tory UK Government was always going to add fuel to the fire and, to be honest, the presence of the LD in Government with them probably has not helped. In essence the fight as become a battle between the SNP and a Labour Party who dislike the UK Government as much as the SNP do, possibly more. The LD and Tories are a positive hindrance in the battle for the votes that matter

  • There is no way of ensuring a “no”, Vote. The reality is that British politics has broken down. The Lib Dems are in a tail spin and neither the Tories nor Labour look capable of forming a majority government yet we still have a FPTP electoral system. There are people posting variation on the theme of “its our way or the highway” when there isn’t even political trust or real consensus politics here in England and Wales. This is a rejection of the Westminster bubble .. No one trusts politicians, the political institutions don’t really work and the electorate is tired of it. But please don’t vote for change, Change is scary, The Boogie Man might get you. The politics of stasis and fear. No wonder Scotland looks like jumping ship. If I were a Scot I would vote “yes” because it’s a positive break with a broken system. Welcome to the Disunited Kingdom..

  • Ironically a Yes vote may inadvertently help the Lib Dems to survive in England at least. It will be harder for Labour to get a majority in England and Wales without the 41 or more Scottish seats, therefore there may be more openings for the Lib Dems than seems even remotely possible at the present time. Politics can be a funny old game. Does not change my view that we need an urgent change of party leadership!

  • Andrew Suffield 8th Sep '14 - 11:31am

    Seriously now, one poll result does not represent a sea change. This article describes some detailed data crunching on the polling results and comes up with some interesting conclusions:

    Firstly, that one poll? Looks like noise, and is not a new thing. Secondly, there’s an interesting amount of bias between pollsters and people who commission polls. Finally, if you do real, statistically valid analysis of poll results over time, the trend in the past couple of months has been very firmly towards a ‘no’ vote.

    The question that you now want to ask yourself is: where did you get the impression that the trend was towards a ‘yes’ vote? Did it come from a media outlet or press release? You may then wish to reconsider how much trust you place in the intentions or statistical competence of your sources.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 11:57am

    Another point: is Scotland’s deficit going to magically disappear if it votes Yes? I’m astonished Salmond has got this far with his miss-sell about an Indy Scotland being both a social democratic and capitalist heaven. The financial services firms are practically upping sticks as we speak, so I don’t know how Salmond’s figures are looking.

  • stuart moran 8th Sep '14 - 11:57am


    Yes, you are bringing some rationale to those of us who are getting over-excited

    In some ways it is also because the political arena is very interesting at the moment

    i. The winding down of Coalition
    ii. The unknown that is UKIP
    iii. All party leaders under pressure
    iv. The Scottish question

    I am quite enjoying it but do tend to get a bit too over the top at times

  • Peter Watson 8th Sep '14 - 12:30pm

    @Andrew Suffield “the trend in the past couple of months has been very firmly towards a ‘no’ vote.”
    The blog to which you link is dated 26 August but appears to be using polling data reported by Anthony Wells up to 7 August. That is more than a month ago and before the second TV debate which seemed to stir things up.
    Wells’ table currently reports polls for the three weeks after that which favour “Yes” more than those before it, and does not include those in the past week which include one showing a majority for “Yes”.
    Also, even at that time, the author of the blog seems to draw a less certain conclusion than you do: “polls appear to have been more variable in recent months and the outcome of the referendum is expected to be close”.

  • I enjoyed your article I just wish to add in my view I wish and want Scotland to remain in the UK

    If they go it’s an end of marriage as far as I am concerned and I would want the keys to the door and bank account back

    Finally you express concern re the rUK being on probation in event of a no vote this smacks of gun to our heads or a ransom so the government can keep trident

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 8th Sep '14 - 1:52pm

    Just. keep reminding the Scots that if they achieve independence and accept the Schengen Agreement as a condition of EU entry a n impregnable border of concrete and steel will have to be erected between England and Scotland to ensure that the millions who want to enter England through Scotland are kept out.

  • Andrew Suffield 8th Sep '14 - 2:16pm

    Wells’ table currently reports polls for the three weeks after that which favour “Yes” more than those before it, and does not include those in the past week which include one showing a majority for “Yes”.

    Ok, here’s the graphs after rerunning the author’s script today, so it captures everything currently in that table:

    loess fit of polling trends
    linear projected support

    As long as the most recent polls are in the table they don’t show up here without me poking at the code a bit, but if you look at their numbers they’re well within the error bounds of recent data, so we wouldn’t expect them to change things substantially.

    Also, even at that time, the author of the blog seems to draw a less certain conclusion than you do: “polls appear to have been more variable in recent months and the outcome of the referendum is expected to be close”.

    I don’t believe I implied any certainty about the result; I certainly intended none. I am observing only that the actual trends in polling are not consistent with the media reports, and that this raises questions primarily about the reporters rather than the outcome of the referendum.

    Of course it’s going to be close. But that one poll? It’s not what it’s being sold as.

  • Eddie Sammon
    Thanks for both your responses. I do not agree with you but we have disagreed before without coming to blows. 🙂

    I find Owen Jones a blast of fresh air amongst the tired received wisdom of most of that lot in the Westminster Bubble and most other media political commentators. He is not a Liberal Democrat but I often wish he were.

  • David Allen 8th Sep '14 - 5:08pm

    John Tilley,

    Owen Jones is probably too young to remember the Liberal Democrats when they used to share his ability to think outside the Bubble!

  • @JohnTilley and @David Allen

    Socialism is its own Bubble and his recieved wisdom is from before even Lloyd George was in No.10 🙂

  • ATF – are you joking or is that your considered view?
    You might want to check your history and recall that the Labour Party and Liberal Party before 1916 fought elections on the same side. Lib- Lab was the norm as the young Labour Party enabled working class people to enter Parliament.

    One of the Lib-Lab shared objectives and manifesto commitments was reform of the House of Lords ( or what we now know as one of Clegg’s worst personal failures in government).

  • David Allen. — Yes Owen Jones is very young.

    So young that in the 1980s his father was a young enthusiast in The Militant Tendency
    All of which makes me feel very old

  • @JohnTilley

    Was slightly tongue in cheek, but as per Beveridge and Keynes – the economics we need to secure Liberalism dates back to the GOM and capitalism that seeks to spread opportunity for all. I like Owen’s passion and ability to connect with those we may wish were in the Liberal fold, but I can’t see Liberalism without capitalism and Owen Jones without Socialism.

  • ATF — I remember Conrad Russell giving an excellent speech on how Gladstone and his contemporaries were not capitalist eg Gladstone favoured mationalisation of the railways, set up compulsory and free state education, spent huge amounts on capital investment on public work ike the London sewers etc. Gladstone was inspired by religious and political zeal. He would not have been at all comfortable with the casino capitalism of the a Thatcherite Consensus.

    But I agree with you about Owen Jones ability to connect and his personal clearly genuine passion. Such a welcome change from the speak-your-weight-machine Bliarite or Cameronite drones ofmthemWestminster Bubble
    I was a fan of the late Bob Crow for the same reason.

    People outside the Liberal Democrats with a clear perspective and challenging views should not be dismissed, we can learn from them. The eight years of Cleggery and consequent failures show the central weakness of Group-think.

  • @JohnTilley

    Well, Churchill and Macmillan believed in a certain amount of nationalisation as well (Churchill was never drawn to privitising the Railways for one) – anyone who believes in the welfare state does to an extent (education, health, military, fire service and so on). You are right in saying the casino world we saw post -1979 would not have pleased the GOM. As you say, his moral centre would abhor what we are seeing – but least we forget, Liberalism emerges politically from the support for free-trade capitalism. Beyond providing the freedoms only it can and should provide, the government should stay out of the economy – a sound Gladstonian principle. As Liberals, it is our job to debate what extent the government should do so to reflect changing circumstances,

    I certainly agree about learning from and being challenged by those outside the Party. We must never be stuffy and immune to the idea that only we Liberals have something to bring to the table – would be very unliberal of us to do so! A great example of that is what is going on in Scotland right now – I am very, very much in the Unionist camp (though living in England I have no vote), but there is a vibrancy from the SNP that is hard to deny and a almost pulpit passion that I’d love for No Thanks to embody as well. In that regard, much of what Caron outlines above shares my thinking.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '14 - 10:36pm

    Thanks John. I agree, we do seem to manage to disagree without arguing! I will get back to Better Together in a minute, but I do sometimes enjoy Owen Jones’s work. The way I see it is some weekends he spends hanging around with anti-capitalists and comes in on Monday producing madcap articles, and other weeks he spends hanging around with Milibandites and produces more informative ones! 🙂

    I love getting my shots off on the Yes campaign, so just to fire another one I’ll say I think Independence could have been a good option if he had managed to get Scottish consent for higher taxes or lower spending, but he hasn’t, so I think he’s sold them a false promise. Clearly BT have made their mistakes too, so in a way a lot of voters will be choosing their least worst option, but I think a No vote is best for them.

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