Look up complacency in the dictionary and the chances are you will find a picture of a Scottish unionist next to it. For months – no, make that years – politicians at the sharp end of the fight against Scottish Nationalism have been warning about the dangers of complacency. But they might as well have been mumbling platitudes about the weather for all the effect it has had.
The unionist side has been complacent, there is no doubt about that. Many in the anti-independence camp seem to have forgotten what this cause means to Alex Salmond and the SNP. They seem to have forgotten that this is all the Nats care about. It is what they have working for all their lives. They are believers, more than that they are evangelists.
Now, boosted by a deep campaign war chest and motivated by a referendum in just six months’ time, they are throwing everything at this campaign.
I have mentioned before how effective the Nationalists have become at the ground campaign. ‘Something is happening in the grassroots,’ was how one senior Nationalist put it to me earlier this year and he was right and that is translating its way, slowly and surely, towards an increase in the Yes vote.
The unionist complacency was understandable for the first few months of the campaign when the No camp’s lead appeared virtually impregnable. But now, when the Yes camp has clearly closed the gap and is continuing to do so, such complacency is ridiculously out of place.
Oddly enough, this momentum shift towards the Yes camp could be exactly the wake-up call the unionists need. They need something shocking and worrying to get those idle unionist supporters and to sit up and realise how close the cliff edge actually is. And, with six months to go, the timing is spot on. There is enough time to go for all those sedentary unionists to get off their backsides and start matching the effort of their Nationalist counterparts. This could be the moment the cloak of complacency drops off and all those activists get up and start fighting.
But that is only going to happen if the politicians at the top get their act together and stop blaming each other for the state of their campaign. And, unfortunately for the No camp, the initial complacency is in danger of morphing – not into action, but into panic and division.
UK Government ministers have gone at each other over The Guardian’s unnamed source and ‘we will share the pound’ story from last weekend.
The Lib Dems have started bitching about Alistair Darling and now, according to reports this morning, some senior figures close to Downing Street have started having a go at the former Chancellor too. This is no time for a blame game. There will be plenty of time for that, believe me, after September 18 if the No camp falls apart now.
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