I'll start off by making an apology. I'm sure hundreds, maybe thousands of people have been actively involved in the No campaign, and I'm sure that a lot of them have worked very hard, probably campaigning round the clock and stuffing envelopes until 3 in the morning. Scotland, both YES and NO sides, should be grateful for your work.
The problems started at the beginning. Allowing the Yes vote to be a vote for change was not a good idea. Rather than the question being, "Should Scotland be an independent country," the question should have been, "Should Scotland remain as part of the UK."
You might think this is nonsense, but NO has so many more negative connotations than YES. And if you don't believe me, then look at the difficulty the No campaign has had with its campaign slogan. Firstly, they were Better Together, then No thanks. Thanks is particularly weak, and is there simply because a big board with NO on it looks stubborn, negative, abrasive and rude. Could you imagine adding a please to "Yes"?
Alistair Darling said today that it was inevitable that the polling figures would narrow. Well, it's inevitable they would narrow:
If you are out-debated on TV Forums.
If there is a lack of charisma, energy and passion at the top of the campaign. I'm not referring to Alistair Darling here. I think he has done his best, is a genuine and honest man, and not lacking intelligence or charisma. There has, however, been a lack of depth surrounding him, and he has often seemed a somewhat isolated figure.
If the campaign has dwelt too much on the negatives and not more on the considerable positives of the current constitutional balance....I'll grant it's hard to be positive when NO is the message.
If you don't point out that there will be a Tory government in perpetuity in England, our new neighbours and competitors.
If you wheel out the big guns at the 11th hour.
If you put out flyers saying that "Archie MacPherson is voting NO." Archie MacPherson? You're joking, right? I've got nothing against the man at all; sure he's a great guy. But are you saying that the poster boy for the No campaign is a retired football commentator with a penchant for saying, "Up go the heads'" every time a cross goes into the box (no voting pun intended). Did you not think to ask anyone more high profile, or, ehm...... anyone else?
If you don't point out that the greatest flowering in Scotland's history was when you combined an already highly literate and well educated population (prior to 1707) with a market in which they could make an impact (post 1707). It's called the Enlightenment, and I haven't heard it mentioned once on the stump.
If Westminster only gets involved in the last week in what seems, timing wise, a desperate last ditch attempt to show that they care.
If you don't point out that, due to the Schengen agreement, any country acceding to the EU must join the Euro, or am I wrong in this? Personally, I've no problem with the Euro, but I suspect it's as unpopular as an Etonian managing Third Lanark.
Worst of all, if you, in the last week of the campaign, suddenly promise more powers for the existing Scottish Parliament. The Liberals, Labour and Conservatives all seem to have different visions. Why wasn't a unified position hammered out months ago? Why wait until now?..even if you meant to announce it now, the timing looks like panic. Why wasn't Devomax on the ballot paper, and why, with 5 days to go, do we not know whether the new powers are going to be clarified before or after the 18th?
Time will tell, but I suspect the Darien Scheme and the NO campaign will both be seen by history as "Scottish Disasters," and that's even if there is a No vote next week.