Published on 1 May 2014

Scottish independence: the view from Port Glasgow

Better Together is going to try to frame its central message with a bit more positive language in the future, sources say. It’s part of a re-think that will also see the top of the organisation souped up and tightened up. It’s a reflection of worry that the campaign hasn’t performed well and has lost some ground in the debate on Scottish independence recent weeks.

Some in Scotland suggest that certain senior Tories have been in full-scale panic and feeding some pretty unhelpful suggestions into the machinery. You sense some exasperation at the top of the “no” campaign and a bit of bafflement that the average of published polls is narrowing quite a bit more than their own private polling with bigger surveys.

A YouGov poll for Channel 4 News shows a “no” lead of 58 per cent to 42 cent once “don’t knows” are stripped out. It confirms a narrowing of the “no” lead from the start of the campaign but isn’t as tight as the famous ICM 52/48 poll. Inverclyde-20140429-01764

The really worrying news for the “no” camp comes further down the poll. British identity in Scotland is a withering fruit. About half of Scots either think of themselves as not British at all or more Scottish than British (49 per cent). Only 14 per cent think of themsleves primarily as British and that’s heavily weighted towards the over 60s. You don’t have to be a qualified actuary to see a worrying trend for unionism there.

We visited Greenock and Port Glasgow to get a sense of how voters at the western tip of the central belt see things. They lost thousands of jobs here in the last two decades of the twentieth century as the ship-building died. Cab drivers waiting to pick up Tesco shoppers point at the ground saying: “This is where thousands built ships and now it’s a car park.” ScottishVote

Press the “don’t knows” round here and you find a mixture of bafflement and exasperation. They complain about not enough information but you also sense they’re slightly drowning in information. They just don’t know what to think. Time and again I’ve found undecideds whose views change mid-answer, bouncing around in a way you never normally hear. It’s a measure of the perceived importance of the decision and, unlike the political party choices, the binary nature of the choice.

The same undecideds who talk crossly about scare-mongering and have bought the “yes” campaign rhetoric on that, nonetheless often say their worries might win out. When I asked what they’d do if they had to decide this minute I heard quite a few voters say “no” quietly, or statements like “no …with a heavy heart” or “no but I’m not happy about it.” But there are 139 days to go.

You can see our report from Greenock and Port Glasgow and more on the poll on Channel 4 News tonight at 7pm.

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15 reader comments

  1. Philip Denner says:

    You don’t hear much discussion of foreign policy in this debate apart from Trident: not a surprise I guess. However, UK FP is closely associated with US neo-con views toned down perhaps with liberal interventionist rhetoric added to disguise it. I cannot imagine Scotland, if independent, buying in to that: only a minority of imperial minded English do. Most ppl seem to accept it as part of the wallpaper just as Eastern Europeans accepted Moscows edicts. There would be a cost, in my view worth paying, to not following US edicts to its so called allies. Would Scotland pay that price or would it simply plead lack of resources to escape US “call ups”? It might be hoped that if Tony Blair ever ventures to an independent Scotland he could be referred to the Hague for trial…oh just dreaming.

  2. cleverer than a tory says:

    Pile of dung. I live in Greenock and i have met a handful of folk who intend to vote No..where did you go, the Brittania Halls?

  3. RabbitLeader says:

    Why don’t the media ever ask English people what they think on Scottish independence? The ensuing financial divorce is of such a huge magnitude that there should be a referendum for the English to approve/reject the financial terms…so come on Channel 4 News give 92% of the population who live south of the border a voice to be heard also.

    1. Bob says:

      The few English people I’ve spoken to on this issue either think we “jocks” should just bugger off already, or they want us to run as far as we can and take them with us (by the way English/Welsh/Northern Irish, if we do vote Yes you’re certainly welcome to move up here).

      As for the idea that the rUK should get a referendum to approve the final settlement, I wholeheartedly disagree. The UK isn’t in the habit of asking the people what they think about… well anything really. If Westminster did care about the opinions of us plebs, we’d have never entered Iraq, the Royal Mail would have never been sold off and the financial sector would have paid for their part in causing the Great Money Disappearing Event of 2008. But instead, Westminster does what Westminster wants.

      But let’s consider what would happen if the referendum happened. Let’s assume the deal being discussed was the deal negotiated between Holyrood and Westminster, and it was the deal that both sides were happy with. If the rUK votes yes, then the whole thing was pointless and a waste of money; the deal would have happened without the expensive poll. If rUK says no, then that’d basically mean that the citizens of the rUK were actively interfering with the democratically chosen independence process. At best the referendum would be useless and at worst an active cause for resentment between the rUK and iScotland.

      And if it is a no, then what? Back to the drawing board? But what would they renegotiate? It’s impossible to say from a simple yes/no question what specific areas the rUK citizens objected to. For example, let’s say the people of rUK was happy with a currency union, but unhappy with the amount of debt iScotland takes. How could the negotiating teams find out this information? Polls are unreliable, and different people will object to different areas. The process would turn into “is this okay? Is this okay? Is THIS okay” with multiple referendums, with each one receiving a lower turn out than the last. Not the best start to a working relationship between the two countries.

      1. RabbitLeader says:

        Truly hypocritical that Scottish independence supporters recognize their right to a vote for independence but would attempt to deny the rights of UK citizens to a referendum on such fundamental issues as the terms of the separation with Scotland which could in theory include a currency union. The UK was expected to issue a referendum on joining the Euro so it would be the same with the terms of separation with Scotland. This would be England’s democratic right, something that Scottish nationalists have no right to deny UK citizens.

        PS any Scots that do not want to be part of the SNP experiment are welcome to come to England where there is more inclusivity than blind nationalism.

  4. CONNELL says:

    Mr Gibbon

    The referendum has “no provisions”* regarding Scottish constituencies.

    It contains no power or effect to reverse the 2010 constituency mandates of the 59 MP’s from Scotland.

    MP’s have no legal authority to withdraw/abstain unless they resign and get a new mandate to that effect. Pse check with Parliamentary authorities, the Secretary of State and the Advocate General of Scotland.

    *Alistair Carmichael Jan 2014

  5. John Curren says:

    Your findings about a declining recognition of British identity in Scots is only a surprise if you don’t understand Scotland and the Scots but remember the referendum is not about nationalism or ethnicity and it’s not just ethnic Scots who have the vote but all who live here and call Scotland home. Nevertheless you are right to point out the danger to the future of the Union even if there is a No vote in September – God forbid – as the sense of detachment from any feeling of Britishness will inevitably grow and grow. The more I witness the antics of our “masters” in Westminster the more embarrassed I become about how UK is perceived by the rest of the world and the more likely I am to deny any Britsh identity I might be able to claim as a result of a passport and to insist that I am only Scottish and want nothing to do with Birtain. With that same attitude prevalent among many, even among the undecided, the threat to social cohesion between Scotland and the rest of the UK in the event of a No vote is worrying to say the least.

  6. Alison Kerr says:

    I think that most Scots would welcome further devolution but not separation. They want to keep the pound sterling with the backing of the Bank of England, free travel and trade within Britain, a British Passport, use of British Embassies overseas, membership of the EU with the reservations won by the British Parliament, the protection of NATO. That is devolution, not separation.
    Mr Salmond has abused his powers as first minister by arranging that ‘yes’ is for separation and ‘no’ for remaining in partnership with the other British nations. Scots value their identity and are proud of their famously independent spirit. The phrasing of the referendum question suggests that they are being asked to deny all that. Mr Salmond has been using the Scottish flag as a symbol of separation. It should be made very clear that it is not. Loyal Scots should choose what they find best for Scotland’s people.

    1. ronnie cowan says:

      Alison, you seem to be the labouring under the misconception that 1. Alex Salmond is running the YES campaign and 2. Alex Salmond took the 3rd option (more devo) off the ballot paper. You are wrong on both accounts. The YES campaign is a cross party and non party organisation. The meeting that Channel 4 covered (2 hours of discussion shown in a 10 second clip) had a top table of Alex Bell (Labour For Indy) Patrick Harvie (Green) and Colin Fox (SSP) the event was chaired by Stuart McMillan (SNP). In my capacity as lead volunteer for Yes Inverclyde I work with people from across the spectrum of political views and many people who have never been a party activist or indeed party member. The original concept was for 3 questions but David Cameron thought he was pulling a fast one by removing that and the result would be a clear NO. As time has gone on it is very clear, that had he left well alone, the majority would have opted for more devo (or jam tomorrow as its known). As most unionists do you represent the YES campaign as a flag waving exercise. As a point of interest, we are seeking independence from the union of parliaments of 1707 not from the union of crowns 1603 and therefore the union flag will remain unchanged. After independence england can fly it cross with pride and scotland shall fly ours. We truly shall be equals and good neighbours. I have many friends, as I am sure you do to, and my friendship is not restricted by their race creed colour religion or nationality. I dont have a contract with any of them. Finally can I say that the UK embassies etc are partly Scottish already and we would only seek our share of their value. Many countries already share embassy buildings, it is nothing new.

    2. joseph O Luain says:

      The conflation of the referendum with old-fashioned UK electoral politics is utterly misleading and is being used here by Alison Kerr merely as a vehicle for having a cheap-skite at the FM. On September eighteenth you will look in-vain to find any mention of your preferred party or the SNP on your ballot paper. Believe me, Alison.
      And … by what criteria do you adjudge a person to be a “Loyal Scot”?

  7. Iain says:

    The result of the question on identity is not news. Every poll, for as long as I can remember, has shown that Scots feel more Scottish than British, and the Census of 2011 showed that too.

  8. tommyscot says:

    Interesting, but I would contend that the geographical area chosen would not be typical of the nation as a whole.

    1. ronnie cowan says:

      Tommy,
      Having canvassed in the entire Inverclyde area I can tell you that the response (on the doorstep as politicians like to say) is pretty much 50 50 and we hope to improve on that in the next 20 weeks. We shall be out in Bardrainney tomorrow to continue the conversation and elsewhere on Sunday and Monday. Our next public meeting is on 9th June with Dennis Canavan (YES) , Jim Bollan (SSP) and Debbie Figures (LFI). All members of the public are very welcome.

  9. Mark Harrison says:

    Why should anyone vote Yes?

    This illustrates the main reason

    From wikipedia:

    “According to the World Health Organization in 2008, the life expectancy for men in the Calton area of Glasgow was 54 years; a local doctor attributed this to alcohol and drug abuse, and a violent gang culture”

    That issue, or any other issues will never ever be a campaign issue in a westminster election. Their problems are not your problems. UK governments will not rise and fall on the basis of the wellbeing of scottish people. They never have and they never will.

    Only a scottish government with full independence can be fully scottish-centric.

    The endless talk of “risks” speak of institutionalisation – they indicate precisely that scotland is not used to making decisions on its own. Someone else makes the decisions for scotland. Someone else even decides which scottish problems to make the decisions on, and which to ignore.

    Vote Yes – scotland will cope. It’s what independent countries do.

  10. Margaret Brogan says:

    I will vote YES, because I want to leave a Union that after 300 years has brought about the highest level of child poverty in the industrialised nations. This poverty in the UK is set to increase because of Coalition Government policies.

    Add to this pensions which are among the lowest in the EU and a level of debt caused by successive Westminster governments that is set to top 1.36 trillion pounds. The most successful union in history? I don’t think so!

Comments are closed.