Nine points behind - has Alex Salmond lost before he's begun?

Another poll sees Yes campaign lagging - but SNP could have a secret weapon in David Cameron

Column LAST UPDATED AT 12:34 ON Tue 26 Nov 2013
Don Brind

AS SCOTLAND'S First Minister Alex Salmond launched his blueprint for independence today, the latest opinion poll showed his Yes campaign trailing the No campaign by nine per cent. Is it all over for Salmond before it's even begun?

There have now been more than 30 polls on Scottish voters' attitudes to leaving the UK since the beginning of 2012. All but one of them has put Salmond's campaign behind.

Panelbase, who carried out the latest survey, have generally been more favourable to the SNP, with No campaign leads in single figures. But other pollsters have regularly given double-digit leads to the No - or Better Together - campaign led by former Chancellor Alistair Darling. In September, You Gov put the gap at 20 points; a month previously, they had the divide at a seemingly hopeless (for Salmond) 30 points.

Commenting on the latest poll, Ivor Knox of Panelbase said: "If patriotism and national pride were the key issues, Yes would win hands down. They aren't: while most voters are proud to call themselves Scots, people remain unconvinced that independence would bring economic benefits."

Analysing the findings on the website What Scotland Thinks, John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: "Panelbase once again presents a more optimistic picture for the Yes side than any other pollster. However, like everyone else, they also find that the balance of public opinion remains resistant to all attempts to shift it - and that thus the Yes side continues to be behind."

By contrast - and not surprisingly - Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins claimed the Panelbase poll was evidence that his campaign was gathering momentum. He made the point that a swing of only five per cent between now and the September 2014 referendum would give the pro-independence camp victory.

That is only true, of course, if you put your faith in Panelbase - and the SNP do. It was the Scottish Nationalists who commissioned Panelbase to carry out the only poll so far to have shown a Yes majority.

Conducted at the end of August, it put the Yes camp ahead by just one point - 44 to 43, with the Don't Knows on 13. But critics have pointed out that this result was achieved with the help of a couple of introductory questions nudging respondents towards pro-independence.

Who do you trust to take the best decisions for Scotland: the Scottish government or the Westminster government? was one of them and it got the response: Scottish government 60, Westminster 16.

Another question, Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Scotland could be a successful independent country'? drew the response: Yes I agree 52, No I disagree: 37.

Desperate tactics? You could argue that - or you could say the questions were logical because they reflected how the argument for independence would be framed in the year of campaigning leading up to the referendum.

As John Curtice put it at the time: "If the Yes side could persuade people that independence would deliver a successful country free of unwanted Westminster rule, then they might well drive people into their camp."

The SNP remains convinced that there's everything to play for and they got a surprising boost last week from Westminster's new Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael who told The Guardian that the large number of undecided voters meant a win for the No campaign was far from certain.

His view was echoed by Mike Smithson of Politicalbetting.com who argued that although more than 90 per cent of the wagers on the referendum have been on a No victory, no one should underestimate Alex Salmond's ability to turn it around.

Before the Holyrood elections in May 2011, the SNP were trailing badly in the polls while Labour were riding high and looked set to win back power in the Scottish parliament. In the event, the SNP won an overall majority (which, of course, led to the upcoming referendum being possible).

Says Smithson: "A lot of this was down to the appeal of Salmond himself and [he] could easily find a way to present next September's choice in a form that will ease the concerns of doubters."

So, will it all come down to Salmond and his undoubted charisma? Not if you believe the argument put forward by Spectator columnist Alex Massie among others, that Salmond could have a secret weapon in David Cameron.

It is no secret, says Massie, that Alistair Darling, in charge of the anti-independence Better Together campaign, is worried that a Tory recovery in England - one strong enough to make a second term for Cameron look likely - might persuade Scottish Labour supporters to vote for independence. In short, "Alex Salmond dearly desires a strong David Cameron".

Those Scottish Labour supporters are crucial. One million of them voted in the 2010 general election. As Massie argues, most polls show only 15 per cent of them are currently open to voting for independence, while Salmond needs far more of them - a good 30 per cent at least - to vote Yes if the Scots are to win independence.

That's "tough sledding" as Massie put it, but if the UK economic news continues to be positive, and Cameron begins to look good for another term in Downing Street, that could turn the Scottish Labour vote in Salmond's favour. · 

Disqus - noscript

The question is simple,do you want your children to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential or are you happy to wallow in mediocrity, I know what I want for my family, vote YES and strive to attain a better future away from the negative petty politics of Westminster.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, JUST WHAT WE NEED!!!
Alex Salmond is promising absolute Utopia, just north of the border.
Imagine how the Eastern European Immigrants will flock north of the border. The English Government should promise free transport to Scotland to all immigrants landing in England.
The Immigrant problem in England will be resolved at a stroke. No bedroom limits. Immigrants will expect, and be given, any accommodation they demand, and s*d the poor souls who are currently living in overcrowded accommodation. They will have no hope of anything better.
LET'S DO IT NOW, WHY WAIT. LET THEM GO, BUT MAKE SURE IT IS TOTAL INDEPENDENCE, NO SCROUNGING OFF EHGLAND AT THEFIRST SIGN OF
THE INEVITABLE TROUBLE WHICH WILL FOLLOW

It must be YES. My relations will be voting YES to rid Scotland of the arrogance and dominance of the English parliament. It is NOT the economy Stoopid!! Just go for it - what an opportunity and tighten your belts for a short time. The important thing is for Scotland to be in charge of its own destiny. Please tell Darling to sling his hook!!!

Fine, we welcome hard working people from wherever they hail.....it`s the career Wasteminster politicians for whom a propers days work would kill, we despise.It`s the xenophobic superior English who have the problem, they want people to do their dirty menial work, but don`t want to share the country with them

YIPPEE REALITY MAN.I HOPE THEY ARE ALL LIKE YOU NORTH OF THE BORDER.
Hard working people - you have got to be joking. Try a visit to East Anglia - Boston is a good place to start. Any day of the week there are immigrants loafing around street corners and around the town square - you can tell they are immigrants by the language they speak in. Hard working - no way, please take them all - as soon as possible

Salmond, the Walter Mitty of Scotland's poltics. Hope the people of Scotand will see the SNP Leader the dreamer of all dreamers !

The new independent government of Scotland may need these Eastern European immigrants, due to mass exodus of Scottish people migrating to England and Wales !

In reality it is more about a massive ego trip by Salmond. He wants to be remembered for centuries as the man who secured separation for Scotland whatever the immediate consequenses turn out to be.

Scotland will have a written constitution after independence, which will have an immigration policy, if you satisfy the criteria, then we'll welcome you. I think spelling is just as important in a civilised society, as where you come from, dont you?

Yeah thats right if by Walter Mitty, you really mean the democratically voted in first minister of scotland by a majority. whatever!
Independence isnt about salmond or the snp, its about self determination for the people of scotland!
Wake up and live your life!

David, whats wrong with that. Its called a legacy, and remember independence isnt about salmond or the snp, its about self determination for the people of scotland!

Some people just cant hep being a racist, isn't that right David? Its good to see you take pride in your community, even one as diverse as your own. Good for you

No one could be less of a racist than me. I only tell it as it is.
Does anyone reallY believe the crap about Scottish self determination. The powers that currently are in power are manipulatING public opinion by making promises they haven't a hope in Hell of delivering on.
The ONLY pressure for self determination is coming from Salmond and his cohorts.
Don't misunderstand me I AM ALL IN FAVOUR OF SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE.
BUT, at a distance I can see what others appear not to see, or choose to ignore.

ALL THE BEST TO THE SCOTS, I HOPE THEY GET THEIR INDEPENDENCE. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE IT HAPPEN

Yes, I agree regarding self-determination for people of any country/nation. But being committed to the European Union is not going to get that. The EU wants to be a country and nation states will not exist. So where is your self-determination for Scotland if you are controlled by the political elite in Brussels?

Yes regarding spelling, fast typing with the three vowels close to gether and did not check! But what will the written constitution say about the immigration policy? You have no idea and could be detrimental for all concern !

Separation for Scotland from the UK, but will be subjugated by the EU. Where is the independence there, when you are controlled by rules and regulations from a foreign power which the EU is?

spelling mistake. Very important to all who write?

And then to be controlled by the EU. Salmond must want this as he is keen on being a member of this outdated bureaucratic entity. More arrogance and dominance from the EU, is that what the people of Sotland really want?

The reason we want to be a partner of the EU on our own, is straightforward. Its because we will get a better deal from the EU, than we do from Westminster. With what Scotland brings to the table (so to speak) Fish, green energy, whisky, oh and oil & related products, we shouldnt have any significant problems from spain. So, we will be in!

Yeah, I understand where you are coming from, but better to be a part of something that controls spanish fishing boats quotas, and "do a deal", than not have a voice in the EU at all. We already have to export to EU & beyond, so it is within our best interests to have a say. At the moment all we have is Cameron and Farage. I didnt vote for their tired and outdated policies, it has been forced onto Scotland. That why EU is attractive to us.

Blakenburg, a quote from the white paper, "A
points-based immigration system would be introduced, targeted at particular
Scottish needs. For example, incentives might be given to migrants who are
prepared to live and work in more remote geographical areas of the country".
Good enough?

A partner with the EU......which cloud cuck-coo land do you live on? Scotland will be a region/province of the The European Union of the Regions. Being part of the European Union means transfering national soveriegnty to this entity. That is the reality and will be the deal with the EU. However, if that what the majority of the people in Scotland wants with a dream in one sense and the reality of things in another sense, Scotlands political class will learn there is much ambiguity and feebleness in their arguement.

I agree with you in regards to Cameron and his policies from him. But reading Farage and his party policy, I believe Scotland can gain much. But if you think that the EU is an attraction, you will find more policies being forced on Scotland from this EU entity at the detriment to the people as a whole. Adieu.

It must be YES - this is a golden opportunity for us to be rid of the influence and prejudice of the arrogant Westminster parliament. To imply that the SNP is on a ego trip is impertinent and a lie. We must take the chance now otherwise we will have another decade of toadying before the Westminster crowd of arrogant political grannies.As an increasing number of Scots
are saying (just look at the blogs in general), it isn't about the economy stoopid. The issue goes much deeper than that.

Blakenburg - Are you saying that the Westminster parliament is already in thrall to Europe? If so then Scotland will be no worse off will they. However, they Scotland will at least be in charge and able to make its own decisions.Moreover to say that Scotland will be controlled by the EU is a slur on the Scots.

Well I know a great number of people who will be moving to Scotland once Independence is secured.

PS. From England possible Wales also.

9 points behind in a Panel base survey . Panel base consistently give lower No lead and have even given a Yes lead to one poll of +1 comissioned by the SNP . Every other polling organisation give leads of between 15 and 30 percent .