There have surely been better political campaigns than the Better Together one that has been arguing the case for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom, 307 years since the 1707 Act of Union.
Admittedly, the Better Together side started with a bad hand, taking the No position in the whole debate. Arguing for something not to happen is often far trickier than outlining the case for change. Passion comes easier with a mission to change rather than to simply follow the status quo.
Having said that, though, the No campaign employed almost entirely negative campaigning methods that made it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for the cause. Contrast that with the well-funded campaign from Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who could promise enthusiastically to break Scots free from what he perceives to be the shackles of the union.
From the beginning, the Westminster campaign focused on the negatives for Scotland if its inhabitants decide to pull out of the union today, a most historic of days; the risk of currency weakness, the risk of not even knowing which currency the new country will adopt, banking instability, house price weakness and a need for more bank reserves if capital moves south.
The leaders of the three main parties in Westminster all left it late to venture north of the border and when they did there was doubt as to whether they had helped the campaign or hindered it. All three leaders – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – are characters with whom the Scots were always unlikely to have too much empathy. Cameron, whenever in Scotland, has honestly faced up to the fact that he, and English public school types, are unpopular there, urging Scots against voting Yes if that was simply as a way of seeing the back of him. “I won’t be here, forever,” he said. Honest it may be, but inspiring it certainly wasn’t.
In general, the impetus, the excitement and the fury has been all behind the Yes campaign. Yet today is the day the talking and heckling stops and, for those voting in Scotland, the time has come to take a stand. Whatever the result of today’s poll, both sides need to work together to make the future work, whether the vote opts for a split or for the status quo with more powers devolved to Scotland.
In the view of this newspaper (whose registered office is in Aberdeen) Scotland, a country of 5m inhabitants, is better off joined with the rest of the United Kingdom. Together the countries are better placed in geopolitical terms. They can argue more forcefully in Europe for necessary changes to the way Brussels operates. If they don’t get what they want, they will be more sorely missed if they leave together.
As an economic market, Scotland is best served by being part of the UK, too. It is small, and likely to be marginalised by corporations if it opts for separation.
One of the more successful rallies of the No campaign took place earlier this week in London’s Trafalgar Square. Those who went applauded the crowd’s genuine fervour for the union and one of the main speakers was not a politician but a musician, Sir Bob Geldof. Where politicians’ words have largely failed during this campaign, Sir Bob addressed the crowd and said, simply: “Between the native genius of the Scots and the pure pragmatic drive of the English we made a world beater.”
We agree. Let’s hope the Scots vote today to keep the union together.