With the Scottish referendum on independence less than a week away, here’s some answers to three of the burning questions:
1. What is the current state of the vote?
Very close-the YouGov poll today puts it at ‘too close to call’. Analysis by polling experts here offers the view that ‘while the race has got considerably closer, the polling evidence still makes No the favourite’. However, predicting referenda is not the same as elections and they conclude that
‘When the result is tight enough to be within the margin of error, polls showing Yes at 49% and 51% amount to the same thing – it’s “squeaky bum time”.’
2. Why has the campaign changed so much?
Until a few months ago, a No victory appeared to be a virtual certainty. So why has it all changed? This great piece by Mark Shephard here explains how YES actually means NO and NO means YES. You can read some research from YouGov here that looks into why there has been this shift –the positivity of the Yes campaign, word of mouth and the negativity of the No campaign all seem to have changed things. It also appears that Ed Miliband’s performance has changed some Labour votes-unfortunately for him, towards Yes.
3. What will happen afterwards?
If Scotland votes Yes, the short answer is it will be complicated and messy-as Robert Hazell’s ‘10 things to know about the referendum’ shows. The independence negotiations will take some time and it may all become very political.
Even if Scotland doesn’t say Yes, the ‘big offer’ by Gordon Brown to give more power and devolution is likely to open up some very interesting issues across Britain. Here’s the Institute for Government’s 16 scenarios for what happens next in the UK.
One fascinating question is whether independence would create a ‘permanent Tory majority’ in what’s left of the UK, by taking away 30+ Labour seats. This analysis here by Full Fact and also these graphs show that this is rather a dubious claim-the vote share for Conservatives and Labour has been falling since the 1950s, so no party is likely to be a ‘majority’ for some time. More importantly, the ‘loss’ of Scotland may create all sorts of electoral ripples across the rest of Britain.
Amid all the noise and discussion, whatever happens next Thursday, things will be different.
Ben Worthy is a Lecturer in Politics