Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond are making their final pitches before the referendum. Photo: Getty
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Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling give their final pitches before the Scottish referendum

Tomorrow is the Scottish independence referendum. The Better Together leader and Scotland’s First Minister are making their last pleas.

Scotland will take to the polling stations tomorrow. As the independence referendum approaches, the leaders of the campaigns on both sides are having their final say.

Polls continue to be extremely close, only just giving a No vote the edge. Three new polls were published last night: one by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail. They all came out with 52 per cent for No and 48 per cent for Yes. However, they exclude undecided voters.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written an open letter to Scottish voters, urging them to “wake up on the first day of a better country”.

Here is his message, as reported by the Scotsman:

In these final hours of this historic campaign I want to speak directly to every person in this country who is weighing up the arguments they have heard.

I have no doubt people in Scotland will look past the increasingly desperate and absurd scare stories being generated daily from Downing Street.

Those have no place in a sensible debate.

So in these last days of the greatest campaign Scotland has ever seen, I want to ask you to take a step back from the arguments of politicians and the blizzard of statistics.

For every expert on one side, there is an expert on the other.

For every scare tactic, there is a message of hope, opportunity and possibility.

The opportunity for our Parliament to gain real job creating powers, the ability to protect our treasured National Health Service and the building of a renewed relationship of respect and equality with our friends and neighbours in the rest of these Islands.

But for all that, the talking is nearly done.

The campaigns will have had their say.

What’s left is just us - the people who live and work here.

The only people with a vote. The people who matter.

The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands.

It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have.

Scotland’s future - our country in our hands.

What to do? Only each of us knows that.

For my part, I ask only this.

Make this decision with a clear head and a clear conscience.

Know that by voting ‘Yes’, what we take into our hands is a responsibility like no other- the responsibility to work together to make Scotland the nation it can be.

That will require maturity, wisdom, engagement and energy- and it will come not from the usual sources of parties and politicians but from you -the people who have transformed this moment from another political debate into a wonderful celebration of people power.

Does every Country make mistakes? Yes.

Are there challenges for Scotland to overcome? Undoubtedly.

But my question is this - who better to meet those challenges on behalf of our nation than us?

We must trust ourselves.

Trust each other.

In Scotland we’ve always had the wealth, the resources and the talent.

We know that with independence we would immediately be in the top twenty of the richest countries in the world.

But what has emerged in this campaign is something very new.

It has changed Scotland forever. I have met it in every community I have been in the last weeks.




An understanding that if we work hard Scotland can be a global success story.

A beacon of economic growth and a champion of social justice.

That’s who we are as a nation.

We are the land of Adam Smith who said that no society can flourish and be happy if too many of its people do not benefit from its wealth.

We are the land of Robert Burns who loved Scotland dearly and also celebrated humanity the world o’er.

It’s what we can be.

Its why this opportunity is truly historic.

Women and men all over Scotland looking in the mirror and knowing the moment has come.

Our choice, our opportunity, our time.

Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country.

Wake up knowing you did this - you made it happen.

This vote isn’t about me, it isn’t about the SNP, the Labour Party or the Tories.

It’s about you. Your family. Your hopes. Your ambitions.

It’s about taking your country’s future into your hands.

Don’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

Don’t let them tell us we can’t.

Let’s do this.

It’s a clear pitch to undecided voters.

The First Minister was also on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, giving his final pitch. He spoke passionately about the debate, calling it “the most amazing thing”. He observed:

I never thought in my political life that I would see people queuing up patiently to register to vote. . . Some people who’d not been on the political register since the poll tax probably. People who couldn’t give a stuff about politicians, including me probably, the BBC, metropolitan leaders. . . [We should] capture some of that enthusiasm, some of that positivity.

However, it was what he lacked in precision that he made up for in enthusiasm. Asked yet again about his plan for Scotland’s currency, still unclear on the eve of the poll, Salmond insisted, fairly vaguely, that, “our proposal is a common sense agreement on our current currency”. He didn't confront the scenario in which Scotland would not receive central bank backing.

Yet he confirmed that, in the event of a Yes vote, “I will say the No and the Yes campaigns are over, we have Team Scotland”. His idea of Team Scotland is to invite figures from across the political spectrum, and both sides of the independence campaign to negotiate in “comradely friendship” for a “best possible settlement for Scotland”.

However, the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, talking on the same programme this morning, called the idea of Team Scotland “deeply offensive”. He was condemning the idea that it was “unpatriotic” not to support the Yes campaign. "He is not Team Scotland".

Darling also criticised the tone in which some of the Yes campaign has been carried out, saying, “unfortunately there are some who have stepped over the mark,” and some had found independence activists “quite frightening”. He gave the example of Yes activists demonstrating outside the BBC.

On devolving further powers to Scotland, Darling said the new powers were announced “months ago”. He said what has been decided in the last stages of the campaign is that there will be a “timetable” for the main parties to sort out their “minor differences” over the details of devolution. On the idea of a “neverendum” following a slim No win, Darling insisted, “no, I think both sides are actually agreed – because I said it and Alex Salmond said it – that this is to settle the matter for a generation.”

He added: “We have all built the UK together and we have benefited from that strength. . . I think it would be a tragedy if that relationship was broken.”

Now both campaigns can do little but watch how their final pitches will affect the undecided 8 per cent (approximately) of voters when they come to make up their minds tomorrow.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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If the SNP truly want another referendum, the clock is ticking

At party conference in Glasgow, I heard Scotland’s governing party demand a future distinctly different from the one being sketched out in Westminster. 

Nicola Sturgeon described Glasgow as the “dear green city” in her opening address to the SNP party conference, which may surprise anyone raised on a diet of Ken Loach films. In fact, if you’re a fan of faded grandeur and nostalgic parks, there are few places to beat it. My morning walk to conference took me past chipped sandstone tenements, over a bridge across the mysterious, twisting River Kelvin, and through a long avenue of autumnal trees in Kelvingrove Park. In the evenings, the skyline bristled with Victorian Gothic university buildings and church spires, and the hipster bars turned on their lights.

In between these two walks, I heard Scotland’s governing party demand a future distinctly different from the one being sketched out in Westminster. Glasgow’s claim to being the UK’s second city expired long ago but I wonder if, post-Brexit, there might be a case for reviving it.



Scottish politics may never have looked more interesting, but at least one Glasgow taxi driver is already over it. All he hears in the back of his cab is “politics, fitba and religion”, he complained when he picked me up from the station. The message didn’t seem to have reached SNP delegates at the conference centre on the Clyde, who cheered any mention of another referendum.

The First Minister, though, seems to have sensed the nation’s weariness. Support for independence has fallen from 47 per cent in June (Survation) to 39 per cent in October (BMG Research). Sturgeon made headlines with the announcement of a draft referendum bill, but read her speeches carefully and nothing is off the table. SNP politicians made the same demands again and again – devolved control of immigration and access to the single market. None ruled out these happening while remaining in the UK.

If Sturgeon does want a soft Brexit deal, though, she must secure it fast. Most experts agree that it would be far easier for an independent Scotland to inherit Britain’s EU membership than for it to reapply. Once Article 50 is triggered, the SNP will be in a race against the clock.


The hare and the tortoise

If anyone is still in doubt about the SNP’s position, look who won the deputy leadership race. Angus Robertson, the gradualist leader of the party in the Commons, saw off a referendum-minded challenger, Tommy Sheppard, with 52.5 per cent of the vote.

Conference would be nothing without an independence rally, and on the final day supporters gathered for one outside. A stall sold “Indyref 2” T-shirts but the grass-roots members I spoke to were patient, at least for now. William Prowse, resplendent in a kilt and a waistcoat covered in pro-indy
badges, remains supportive of Sturgeon. “The reason she has not called an Indy 2 vote
is we need to have the right numbers,” he told me. “She’s playing the right game.”

Jordi McArthur, a member for 30 years, stood nearby waving a flagpole with the Scottish, Welsh and Catalan flags side by side. “We’re happy to wait until we know what is happening with Brexit,” he said. “But at the same time, we want a referendum. It won’t be Nicola’s choice. It will be the grass roots’ choice.”


No Gerrymandering

Party leaders may come and go, but SNP members can rely on one thing at conference – the stage invasions of the pensioner Gerry Fisher. A legendary dissenter, Fisher refused this year to play along with the party’s embrace of the EU. Clutching the
lectern stubbornly, he told members: “Don’t tell me that you can be independent and a member of the EU. It’s factually rubbish.” In the press room, where conference proceedings were shown unrelentingly on a big screen, hacks stopped what they were doing to cheer him on.


Back to black

No SNP conference would be complete without a glimpse of Mhairi Black, the straight-talking slayer of Douglas Alexander and Westminster’s Baby of the House. She is a celebrity among my millennial friends – a video of her maiden Commons speech has been watched more than 700,000 times – and her relative silence in recent months is making them anxious.

I was determined to track her down, so I set my alarm for an unearthly hour and joined a queue of middle-aged women at an early-morning fringe event. The SNP has taken up the cause of the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, run by a group of women born in the 1950s whose retirement age has been delayed and are demanding compensation. Black, who is 22, has become their most ­articulate spokeswoman.

The event started but her chair remained unfilled. When she did arrive, halfway through the session, it was straight from the airport. She gave a rip-roaring speech that momentarily convinced even Waspi sceptics like me, and then dashed off to her next appointment.


Family stories

Woven through the SNP conference was an argument about the benefits of immigration (currently controlled by Westminster). This culminated in an appearance by the Brain family, whose attempt to resist deportation back to Australia has made them a national cause célèbre. (Their young son has learned to speak Gaelic.) Yet for me, the most emotional moment of the conference was when another family, the Chhokars, stepped on stage. Surjit Singh Chhokar was murdered in 1998, but it took 17 years of campaigning and a change in double jeopardy laws before his killer could be brought to justice.

As Aamer Anwar, the family’s solicitor, told the story of “Scotland’s Stephen Lawrence”, Chhokar’s mother and sister stood listening silently, still stricken with grief. After he finished, the delegates gave the family a standing ovation.

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, the New Statesman’s politics blog

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood