In just a few weeks, the people of Scotland will hold a referendum that regardless of the outcome will irrevocably change the future of the United Kingdom. Three years after the referendum campaign unofficially began and following an onslaught of argument, debate and misinformation on both sides, the question is: are you still paying attention?
For some, the answer is unfortunately ‘no’. It’s unfortunate because the referendum question is incredibly important. According to the First Minister, Alex Salmond, it’s Scotland’s “biggest decision for 300 years” – and interestingly, those yet to make up their minds could ultimately decide the result.
Most polls have found that undecided voters make up between 10-20% of the electorate – depending on who carried out the survey. With more confident voters finding themselves fairly evenly spread between the two sides, this means that the referendum is far from decided.
That is why you will see politicians like Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling still only too keen to get their faces on the television and put their own last-minute arguments forward. Whilst the polls have often varied wildly, almost all of them have agreed that those undecided votes could ultimately decide Scotland’s future.
The problem is, a lot of the people still sitting on the fence will feel like they have heard it all before – and that’s because they probably have. The debate has been centre stage in Scottish politics for some time now and for the largest part, the argument hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years.
For the nationalist side, the debate seems to be centred on grand promises of a socialist, oil-rich utopia with free-education for all and the Tories banished to far off lands. For the unionists, ‘Project Fear’ has been in full effect, assuring Scots that they couldn’t possibly go it alone –least of all without the BBC, the NHS and an endless list of other great British abbreviations.
The fact that an independent Scotland probably wouldn’t look much like either of those predictions hasn’t stopped the two opposing campaigns from running them into the ground. All the evidence thus far seems to suggest that both sides are better at preaching to the already converted than they are at dealing with those still trying to make up their minds – something that was all too apparent in the aftermath of the recent television debates.
This means that the polls have refused to shift and statistics seem to suggest that we aren’t much further ahead than we were at this time last year. As we enter into the last gasp of the referendum campaign, something really has got to give.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if that is going to come from Better Together or Yes Scotland. Despite the best efforts of the volunteers – who have put in great work to try and make the arguments heard in towns and cities throughout Scotland – for many, the endless list of hypotheticals won’t be a clear enough incentive to put their ‘x’ on either side of the ballot paper.
The reality, however, is that the vote is coming – and it’s coming soon. The time to make up your mind is now and the likelihood is; if it hasn’t happened already, no one is going to make up your mind for you. Those who have yet to decide need to ask themselves what they want; what really matters to them.
The independence question is a multi-faceted one with disparate pros and cons for every single one of us and whichever route we take, the only certainty is that the road will feature no shortage of twists and turns. As we move forward into the inevitably unknown, the real question is whether we really are better together.