Every reliable forecast – from bookies to pollsters to pundits – is now putting the “yes” vote in Scotland at over 40%. Just over, but over. That would be a remarkable achievement for the SNP – for it is essentially a victory.
[For the record, I am an exception; I think it will be below 40% – but for the sake of this article I don’t regard myself as “reliable”!]
In fact, anything much over a third of the vote would be essentially a victory. Once the “yes” vote passes 35% or so, Scotland becomes a country unquestionably divided. The momentum, even at 35%, is all upwards for those seeking “independence” – it is essentially a tipping point.
I have written before that Scotland has already psychologically left the UK. The underlying notion that its maintenance within the Union depends on Conservative Governments being rarely if ever elected clearly points to a conditional stake in the UK. The fact that the UK Establishment has no idea what to do about this is only a further advantage to those who suggest it should cease to govern Scotland!
After all, it is accepted fact and convention that Northern Ireland is a divided country on whether or not to remain in the UK. At over 35%, and certainly at over 40%, it becomes unquestionable that Scotland is equally divided.
It is possible, of course, that after a close thing support for independence could begin to drift, as it did in Quebec. This is possible, not least because much of that support is based on the charismatic brilliance of one man, Mr Salmond. But it is not likely. The UK is a nuclear power, but Scots don’t like nuclear weapons; the UK is an economic Union, but Scots don’t want to share their oil; the UK is a broadly centre-right country, but Scots claim to be centre-left (leaving aside, ahem, their history as a disproportionate builder of the British Empire). There is more than mere identity to this.
On referendum night, therefore, it scarcely matters if the “yes” vote is over 50%. If it’s over 40%, or even much over a third, the game is pretty much up. The UK could be saved from that point – but the whole issue will be that there is likely no one in England with the nous or ambition to save it.