Facts Getting in the Way of a Good Story

The old political maxim says that if you tell a lie often enough people will begin to believe it. The classic example these days, advanced by politicians and the anti-independence newspapers (which means most of them) is that polls consistently show Scots reject independence.

Whatever happened to the facts?

It takes only a few minutes to check on recent polls where the independence question is put in the simplest terms: Do you approve or disapprove of Scotland becoming an independent country?

The more complicated question, which amounts to the same thing, goes like this: The Scottish government should negotiate a settlement with the government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state. Do you approve or disapprove?

When you look at the responses to these polls you begin to see why there is so much resistance to the Scottish people being allowed to decide whether to become independent. It’s pretty obvious really. The Yes vote would very probably win.

Last year polls by TNS System Three for the Sunday Herald showed approval of independence in straight Yes/No polls jumping from 35 per cent (with 50 per cent against) to 40 per cent in favour (44 per cent against), and then to a majority of 41 per cent in favour with 40 per cent against.

Last year, the Daily Mail showed support for independence at 51 per cent with 36 per cent against. Earlier this year the Mail had those in favour of independence at 41 per cent with 43 per cent against. In other words even if the second poll was the more accurate it would require a swing of only two per cent for a victory for the Yes campaign.

In the past there have been even more encouraging polls for independence supporters – call in evidence the Daily Telegraph reporting 52 per cent of Scots in favour and the Scotsman some time ago also with a simple majority.

So where do the Unionists and their media chums get the idea that “the Scots don’t want independence”?

They take what comfort they can from multi-option polls suggesting stronger devolution is, for many of us, preferable to independence. This is why all the Unionist parties are rushing to promise us a further extension of devolution, probably some new but very limited taxation power. They calculate this will buy off the growing demand for independence. Some hope.

History shows that regional or devolved legislatures everywhere always respond to winning new powers by demanding yet more. More devolution will merely postpone, briefly, our decision in favour of independence. We should just cut to the chase now.

But you can be sure the Unionists in their panic will keep up the bluff that we are afraid of independence. We need to point them to the facts.

Murray Ritchie. This article first appeared here. Reproduced, with thanks.

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