Trouble ahead for the Yes Campaign?
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A few weeks ago in a packed cinema in the heart of Scotland's capital the much awaited Yes to Scottish independence campaign kicked off.
The audience were greeted the two leading figures in this independence campaign, Alex Salmond and Patrick Harvie. The event was designed to show that the Yes campaign has been designed to unite people regardless of political affiliation, even if those pro- independence parties are outnumbered by the unionist political groups. Critics argued that the campaign launch was a low-key affair in which the media was not that interested in covering, indeed the Olympic torch relay received more coverage.
What was clear from the start of this campaign was that the Yes mob needed to be more than simply another arm of the SNP electoral machine. The SNP's electoral success speaks for itself as it managed to win a majority with an electoral system that was designed to prevent such an outcome. However much research has suggested that a vote for the SNP does not necessarily equate to a vote for Scottish independence, this campaign is therefore uncharted territory for the party. Further to this the SNP need to overturn a majority who are currently against the party's flagship policy.
For the campaign to be a success it is therefore crucial that the Yes movement build a coalition of parties and organisations who can get behind the campaign. However last weekend saw the exit of one of the group's main partners, the Scottish Green Party. At the Yes launch, co-leader Patrick Harvie stated that “The Greens are not a party of nationalists... but are in favour of self-determination”.
It is very easy to dismiss the influence the Scottish Greens have but the recent 2012 Local Government elections highlighted a rise in support for the party. Harvie criticised the pro-independence campaign as being too SNP centric. For the nationalists this is a major blow to an already sluggish campaign that has only seen 20,000 sign up to support their cause which Salmond stated would receive 1 million signatures.
This now leaves the SNP and the Scottish Socialist Party as the two remaining political groups within the Yes campaign. With the major donors to the campaign being SNP sympathisers, it is difficult to see what, if any financial support the SSP will be able to give. With the No to independence group yet to launch their campaign which is being tipped to be called 'Better Together' the battle to win the referendum is still very much in it's early stages.
The Yes campaign need to re-think their approach to this referendum. The polls consistently show that the No vote will win with a comfortable margin. In a recent BBC Scotland debate, Patrick Harvie received much support from the audience and social media pundits alike. The SNP consistently fell short when discussions around EU membership or the monarchy were brought up and allow the unionist parties to easily defend the status-quo. Harvie on the other hand was able to unequivocally state that he would like to see the back of the monarchy, leave NATO and rid Scotland of nuclear weapons. This is in contrast to the SNP who are still in favour of retaining the monarchy and have yet to clearly state which international organisations they would like Scotland to remain in if it became independent.
It is therefore easy to understand why the the independent Scotland the Scottish Greens are offering would be more appealing than the 'half-way-house' the SNP propose. These are of course the minutia in terms of the referendum but are relevant none the less.
To win the referendum, the SNP cannot stand alone and rely on Alex Salmond to win the debate. There are many ideas to what an independent Scotland could look like and not just the one being proposed by the SNP and it is important that those opinions are part of the referendum process.
The next two years are set to see a political drama that even the likes of Borgen could not even match. There is much work to be done by both sides of the this campaign. But one thing remains clear: this referendum will not be won by throwing statistics across the newspapers, it will be won by capturing the hearts and minds of voters across the four corners of Scotland.
Let the battle commence.