This column warned, in February and again in May, that Alex Salmond wasn’t to be under-estimated. The Scottish National Party’s canny leader has a track record of surging late to secure a close-run victory. He did it in the Scottish parliamentary elections of both 2007 and 2011.
The Union is now in grave danger. Over 300 years of history could be reversed when Scotland votes on Thursday 18 September. No-one should be surprised by the latest “shock” polls showing the pro-independence vote within spitting distance of upending the 1707 Act of Union. For some time, the momentum has been with the Yes-camp, as it has steadily come from behind. In mid-2013, 65pc of the Scottish electorate said they wanted to stay in the UK. By May this year, that figure had fallen to just over half.
The media consensus was that Alistair Darling scored a convincing win last week, in the first “televised” debate on Scottish independence. I’m not so sure. Yes, the Former Chancellor, now leading the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, did well. Conversely, First Minister Alex Salmond, who’s spent a lifetime campaigning for independence, was often on the ropes. This was a surprise, given the SNP Leader’s usually razor-sharp debating skills.
Yet, with less than six weeks to go before Scotland votes, the ballot could still go either way. While Darling indeed appeared to fare better in the debate, a pair of Ipsos Mori polls found the No-vote remained static before and after the verbal tussle, while support for the pro-independence Yes-camp rose four percentage points to 40pc. A post-debate ICM poll put the two sides even closer, with 42pc signaling they’d vote to break-up the union, compared to 47pc against.