‘Yes Scotland’ takes first poll lead of campaign. Peaked too soon or Big Mo timed just right?

by Stephen Tall on September 7, 2014

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TTwo polls in the Scottish independence referendum debate were published last night. The one that’s (understandably) getting all the attention is YouGov’s showing a wafer-thin Yes lead, 51% to 49%. It’s only the second poll to have found a pro-independence majority (the previous one was over a year ago). The other poll, commissioned by the SNP, continues to show No in the lead, 48% to 44%.

Peter Kellner in the Sunday Times has a good summary of the factors that will likely decide the outcome in the final 10 days’ campaigning:

Factors that could favour a Yes vote

  • Momentum. The change in mood of the past four weeks may prove infectious, with more voters being swayed by the excitement and optimism of a surge in Yes support and wanting to go with the flow.
  • Superior campaigning. Yes Scotland is not only seen as more positive, it is also winning the ground war. Our poll finds that it has delivered more leaflets, put up more posters, set up more local stalls and sent more emails than Better Together.
  • Women continuing to lose their fears of independence. The gender gap has narrowed, but not disappeared. If men don’t start swing back to No, any further shift to Yes by Scotland’s women will guarantee victory for Salmond.
  • Factors that could favour a No vote

  • Turnout. Our poll points to a high turnout among voters of all ages. But experience tells us that the over 60s usually vote in larger numbers than any other group, and they still divide 62%-38% in favour of No.
  • Return of the fear factor. Until last week, a Yes victory looked unlikely. Now it is on the cards, the warnings from those opposed to independence will gain a fresh urgency and may make a bigger impact.
  • The Quebec precedent. In 1995 Quebec voted on whether to secede from Canada. With a month to go, No held a steady lead. Then the mood changed. The final polls pointed to a 53-47% victory for Yes. But on the day, some voters pulled back from the brink, and Quebec voted to remain part of Canada by 50.6% to 49.4%.
  • Kellner also looks at the implications for next May’s general election if the voters of Scotland do vote Yes. Here’s his best-guess forecast of what the result would be according to current polls:

      Labour 316 seats
      Conservative 280
      Lib Dem 27
      Others 27

    As he notes, “That would leave Labour just ten seats short of an overall majority, and with the option of going into coalition with the Lib Dems, or running a minority government on its own.”

    And what happens if Scotland were to secede? Something like this, he estimates:

      Conservative 278
      Labour 274
      Lib Dem 18
      Others 21

    Bit of a turnaround. It’s enough to make you wonder whether Andy Burnham and the Labour party are regretting scaremongering (inaccurately) about NHS privatisation quite so much.

    * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.