Reflections on the Scottish independence referendum

As Scotland goes to the polls to vote on independence, it’s worth reflecting on a couple of ‘human truths’ this referendum campaign has brought into focus.

1. The Power of Positive Thinking

Throughout the run-up to the election the Yes camp has continually painted a positive image of an independent Scotland.

By contrast the Better Together campaign has been widely criticised for taking a defensive stance, preferring to rationally address the uncertainties in the Yes campaign’s arguments.

If the No vote is ultimately victorious they may argue this was the right strategy, but by conceding the emotional territory to the pro-independence lobby, Better Together has seen momentum swing against it in the last few weeks, with recent polls much closer than they previously had been.

In this interesting article, Sir John Hegarty frames the problem in advertising terms – challenger versus brand leader – concluding that the unionists should have campaigned on a ‘Vote No Borders’ platform to frame their side of the debate in positive fashion.

It could be said that politics should be about people and ideas, not brands and consumers, but I think Hegarty’s human insight is absolutely true.

Even the most rational arguments need to be allied to an emotional hook for them to be truly persuasive.

2. People Get Involved When It Matters To Them

The voter turnout in the 2010 general election was just 65%.

In the 2012 local elections the turnout was only 32%, leading to calls in some quarters for voting to become compulsory.

And that’s before we consider the Police & Crime Commissioner elections, in which only 15% of people voted (and there were rumours of one polling station in Gwent that received no votes at all!).

Turnout UK National Elections

Regardless of the result, this Scottish referendum is truly exceptional in the way it has captured public opinion.

97% of the eligible electorate has registered to vote, and the number of people claiming they would definitely vote in the referendum has steadily increased over the last couple of years, rising from 65% in January 2012 to over 90% this month.

Whatever the result of this referendum, neither side will be able to claim it doesn’t reflect the will of the Scottish people.

Image credits

The image accompanying this article was created by Surian Soosay.  View the original on Flickr here.

The election turnout bar chart was taken from the Full Fact website.

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