A lot of international observers have long written off Scottish Independence as something that simply will not happen. Financial markets, political betting websites, all of them have been expecting Scotland to vote "No" on the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
That calculation has been blown out of the water in the past week, as the polls have narrowed significantly. The most recent poll shows a yes vote trailing no by six points, with 10 percent still undecided.
A bit of background: In a country of only 5 Million, at minimum, 170,000 new voters have registered to vote since December of 2009. That's the equivalent of registering 12 million voters in the US.
And those numbers do not account for voter registration drives which have happened this year, in Scotland.
Homeless advocacy organizations like Shelter Scotland have been leafletting the country and are registering the homeless to vote. More than a thousand canvassers who are part of a group called the Radical Independence Campaign have been working their way through Scotland's poorest and most deprived areas, registering people to vote, and convincing them to vote yes. These are people who never vote, and who pollsters never talk to, because they aren't expected to vote.
Voter registration ends Tomorrow, Tuesday Sept 2nd, just 17 days before the September 18th referendum.
Margaret Curran, one of the leading figures in the Scottish Labour Party has called the Radical Independence Campaign's activities "appalling" because of how effective they have been at encouraging a yes vote.
According to the RIC's own numbers, of the 18,000 people they canvassed in the last month, about 60-70% of them are expected to vote yes. That's not a poll, those aren't weighted numbers, those are the people that they talked to across the deprived parts of Scotland.
Those are numbers from people who simply do not vote.
And a note on the polling: every single poll conflicts. The Financial Times had a great article the other day on the fact that polling on Scottish Independence is showing conflicting data.
I've looked at the numbers myself and there does appear to be a clear trend. The longer the independence campaign goes on, the more people support independence.
And that's because the independence campaign is a real grassroots movement, which has been fighting for Scottish Independence before the Treaty of Union was even signed.
If you search youtube right now, you'll find pro independence flash mobs, flash rallies essentially, leafletting campaigns, on twitter you'll find people begging for more copies of independence literature and leaflets because they have simply run out.
There's nothing like this level of energy and activation coming from the no campaign, because the no campaign is essentially an orchestrated attempt by the big three London parties to keep their well paying jobs down in England.
The YES campaign has all these disparate groups are working together quite well, even though they really don't like each other that much. You have the SNP activating the center left, the greens activating the intellectual left, the RIC activating the poor, the nonprofit sector activating the homeless, and the no campaign is falling in on itself. On the No side, you have a number of groups trying to work together that can't stand each other, and that most people in Scotland can't stand.
The No campaign has the Tories, and Liberal Democrats standing beside the Labour party. The Labour party is the second largest party in Scotland, sure, and there are a lot of people who share their economic views, but as for the Tories and LibDems? Well, the line is that there are more Pandas in Edinburgh zoo than there are elected Tory MPs in Scotland. And that's true.
Just to be clear for any readers who don't follow British Politics at all, the Tory party is the Conservative party led by David Cameron, in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
That alliance with the Tories, by the way, has led a lot of Scots to abandon the Liberal Democrats. In the most recent Scottish Parliament elections, the LibDems were completely wiped out in mainland Scotland.
But the Yes campaign's relentless positivity, and refusal to divide itself over internecine differences really should be a lesson for the world. If we could achieve this kind of political activation in the United States, we could sweep away the plutocracy forever.
In contrast, the No Campaign, which has been widely lambasted as "Project Fear" or "Bitter Together" lost control of the argument during the debate last week.
Their entire scaremongering campaign circled around whether or not Scotland would be able to use the pound after independence. Now, Scotland already has the right to print its own pounds, and if you've ever taken Scottish pounds to London as my family once did on vacation, and attempted to pay with them, many English shopkeepers react as if you've just handed them a dead baby.
Scotland can continue to use this money, legally, or they can peg the Scottish pound to another currency, as banking centers like Hong Kong continue to peg their money to that of other nations, without any problems. Depending on your definition of what constitutes a nation, there are over a hundred nations involved in some kind of currency union, most of them are fine, and some of them are fantastically wealthy.
Where the No campaign went wrong was admitting that they'd been lying about taking the pound away. Alistair Darling admitted this during the debate, "Of course Scotland can use the pound!" he said, having been flustered by Alex Salmond. From that blow, the No campaign may never recover.
At the same time as Alistair Darling was undermining the Better Together campaign by pointing out that he and the Better Together campaign had been lying to the Scottish people about the pound, Unison and the CWU of Northern England revealed that Alistair Darling and many of his friends in the Labour party were heavily invested in companies profiting from and driving the privatization of the national health service.
Some are directly invested, as is the case with Frank Field, who is now a director of Medicash, a new start private insurance company. He's currently on the payroll of Medicash, and is paid over £1,000 a month for his efforts on their behalf. The unproven assertion that he's giving this money to charity is cold comfort to those watching the largest left-wing party in Britain profit from the privatization of their National Health Service, while the United States marches forward, attempting to expand Medicare.
Imagine if Dick Cheney was actively being paid by Halliburton while in office instead of just expecting a golden parachute when he left,, and that's the level of corruption we're talking about here.
Others are politically invested, like Alistair Darling, the leader of the No Thanks/Better Together campaign, who according to the financial times, has been paid more than £81,000 to rub shoulders with executives of the Cinven investment corporation, which has been buying up pieces of the newly privatized NHS. This is something he was accused of by an elderly woman during the television debate. In reaction to this corruption, she implored everyone "Not to believe a word that comes out of Alistair Darling's mouth."
Darling has said that this isn't true, but the facts speak for themselves.
And then, after all of this, the Better Together campaign released an ad so terrible that even the Italian press has been lambasting it for sexism. Remember, in Italy, it's acceptable for a prosecutor to call a female defendant a "She Devil" in court. When these are the people calling you sexist, you have made a mistake. The ad consisted of a woman sitting in her kitchen, drinking tea, and announcing that because she didn't have the time to think or do any research, she was going to vote no, and go wash some dishes.
This was thoroughly mocked on twitter, and a number of women, just random scottish mothers, posted responses on twitter and youtube. The meme, called "Patronising Better Together Lady" sparked a viral marketing campaign from the Yes Scotland camp. Here's two responses from Scottish mothers.
The most recent poll shows a six point swing to the independence campaign. While still behind by about six points, we've already discussed how volatile and inaccurate the polls are.
There's too much noise to draw any accurate conclusions from these polls, and the only thing that any of them are saying is that, while there may be blips, the Independence Campaign does better over time.
In this situation, it is very difficult to do any kind of effective polling. The opinion polls are asking voters what they did in 2011, and attempting to use results for that Scottish Parliament election to determine the likely voter count for the independence referendum. This year, there are no candidates on the ballot. The independence referendum is not some ballot initiative locked into personalities.
The question of Scotland's independence is the only question that Scottish Voters will be deciding.
For pollsters, this creates an impossible situation, and has led to a situation where each polling company's data conflicts with every other polling company's data, according to the Financial Times.
The fact remains that if the Yes Scotland campaign keeps doing what it's doing, stays positive, stays active in the streets, in the villages, and in the cities, they have a real chance to win this thing, even though they're largely being written off.
But of course, the No Campaign is once again focused on ruthless negativity in response.
Labour Party MP Jim Murphy was egged in Kirkaldy Fife over the weekend, and since then, the better together campaign has been screaming about organized intimidation. because of one egging incident.
There have been a great deal of incidents of violence from supporters of the No campaign.
Here are a few choice examples:
Jim Sillars, a former Labour party member, and member of the SNP, was threatened with notes that said he needed to watch his back, and that people wer glad that his wife was dead.
The scrawled note went on to say: “Thank fxxx Margo the mouth is dead”. Another message written on a Scottish Government pro-independence leaflet said: “We want you bxxxxxxx out of Fife. Watch your backs”. The note on the leaflet was signed “Scots Vets anti-SNP group”.Jim Sillars has also been egged, if that makes a difference to the BBC.
Mr Sillars described whoever was behind the threat as “nutcases” and said he had “no intention of staying out of any part of Scotland”. He added: “I never worry about what people say about Margo and me. It’s water off a duck’s back.”
A woman, who is said by activists to be pregnant, was kicked in the stomach by a man from the Britannica party in Glasgow, a group that is associated with the neo-nazi "British National Party." I can confirm that he was campaigning against independence, but Yes-Camp activists who were on the ground are telling me that he was NOT associated with Better Together.
Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, Essentially the Scottish Prime Minister, has received death threats, and in one case a no supporter drove erratically and aggressively towards his car, tailgating, speeding up, getting in front of it, slowing down, if you'd done that to the governor of a state in the US, the police would shoot you.
Instead, he gets his smiling face in the Scottish Sun under the headline "Better Tailgater." Considering what's happening in the US right now, I'll happily chalk up the reluctance of Scottish Police to shoot people as a good thing.
Now, the Yes campaign, despite all of these incidents of Violence from or among the no campaign, have not claimed that there is an organized campaign of intimidation from the No camp. Because these isolated incidents, spread out over five million people over the course of a few months, are simply isolated incidents.
just the handful of incidents we've seen.
Nevertheless, the British press is now running with the No Campaign's nonsense about an organized intimidation campaign, and are calling "Yes" supporters thugs, which is factually untrue.
And that's proven by the fact that the YES campaign has already become a global model for independence and constitutional change, according to an article in the Scottish Herald by David Leask. Both the Basques, who actually have had troubles with violent independence campaigns, and the Quebecois, have sent delegations to Scotland to observe the process, so that they can figure out how to repeat it in their own countries.
If this campaign really were violent, you wouldn't have activists from across the world showing up.
And the YES campaign has already done their part to by asking them to focus on undecided voters instead of debating the No camp.
But that won't stop the British press printing articles about "Fears" of "Mass Carnage". Which is completely baseless, and doesn't reflect who the Scottish people are whether they support Yes OR No.
So long as the Yes campaign sidesteps these distractions as they have done all along, and focuses on the ground game they're running in Scotland, the widest reaching ground game of any political movement this century, they have a chance, a real chance, of achieving independence for Scotland.
Watch this space.
3:03 PM PT: This is the written companion to my half of today's Netroots Radio After Show.
The podcast can be heard here.
4:15 PM PT: Wow.
So Netroots Radio is going viral in Scotland.
6,000+ Views so far.
5:59 PM PT: Some Scottish folks on Twitter have asked me to set up a GoFundMe page to fly me to Scotland to report on these issues. If you'd like to contribute, here's the link:
7:18 PM PT: The Scottish Police Federation has appealed for an end to inflammatory language about violence from whichever campaign, warning that such language can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Their full statement:
1st September, 2014
SPF Media Release – Independence Referendum
SPF Media Release – Independence Referendum
SCOTTISH POLICE FEDERATION
5 Woodside Place, Glasgow, G3 7QF
The Scottish Police Federation represents all police officers in the ranks of constable, sergeant, inspector and chief inspector, police cadets and special constables, over 18,500 people, 98% of all police officers in Scotland.
To: News Editor
Date: 1 September 2014
Subject: Independence Referendum
In response to the suggestion of absolute carnage in and around polling stations on the 18th Sept Brian Docherty, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation said;
“The independence debate has been robust but overwhelmingly good natured and it would prove a disservice to those who have participated in it thus far to suggest that with 17 days to go, Scotland is about to disintegrate into absolute carnage on the back of making the most important decision in the country’s history
Politicians and supporters of whichever point of view need to be mindful of the potential impact of intemperate, inflammatory and exaggerated language, lest they be seen to seek to create a self fulfilling prophecy”
For further information contact Lesley Stevenson at 5 Woodside Place, Glasgow, G3 7QF Telephone: 0141 332 5234 Mobile: 07967 104173 Fax: 0141 331 2436