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“An independence referendum is like a normal election on steroids”

August 18th, 2014

YouGov/Times poll: After excluding DKs it’s YES 43%+3: NO 57%(-3)

I’ve just got back from three days in Edinburgh where I was totally immersed in the momentous decision that the Scottish people are due to make in the referendum on September 18th. I was a panellist at the Festival of Politics which was held in the superb Scottish Parliament Building just across the road from Holyrood Palace – the Queen’s official residence.

Almost everybody I spoke to there and elsewhere during my visit wanted to discuss the referendum and it’s clear that turnout is going to be high.

    This vote goes to the very heart of how people north of the border see themselves and their sense of identity. It is much much more than the normal run of the mill party politics.

The session I spoke at was on polling and the audience was asked by show of hands to indicate how they would be voting. It was about two to one to NO. My sense was that those attending were looking for some reassurance that they could have trust in the polls which are all showing that the move is going to be rejected.

There was a great contribution from the floor from a man from Montreal who had a close experience of the two Quebec referenda on splitting from Canada. He had a wonderful observation which resonated “An independence referendum is like a normal election on steroids”.

Having had a period on steroids a couple of years ago the analogy is a good one. Yes you feel supercharged and energised but you are also prone to losing your temper a lot more. You get very angry about things you would normally take in your stride.

The outcome of this election is just so important to people and there are very strong views on either side even from those who normally do not take much notice of politics.

Although September 18th is four and a half weeks off the election actually starts much earlier because of postal voting. Packs are due to go out at the end of next week and all the experience is that a large proportion of postal voters return their ballots almost immediately.

So effectively the race is closed down for a large number of voters more than two weeks before the actual vote which adds to the complications.

In spite of the past three polls that have all shown a tightening my sense is that it will still be NO though I’m not shifting my Betfair betting which produces the same profit whatever happens.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble