Alex Massie Alex Massie

Come in Britain, your time is up

How do you kill an idea? That is the Unionist quandary this weekend. For a long time now the Better Together campaign has based its hostility to Scottish independence on the risks and uncertainties that, unavoidably, come with independence. This, they say, is what tests well with their focus groups. No-one gives a stuff about all that identity crap, they say, so there’s no need to talk about it. Instead, hype the unknowns – of both the known and unknown variety – and bang on and on about all that risk and all that uncertainty.

Which, like, is fine. Until the point it ceases to be fine. Until the point at which it stops working. Which, like, would be right about now.

YouGov’s previous poll was an Oh fuck moment for Unionists. Today’s upgrades the threat level by another couple of notches. We’ve reached DefCon Oh my fucking God. But not in a good or droll way. I mean, even people in London are noticing now. Not before time, of course.

But, yes, the idea. Despite the fact that both the Yes and No campaigns have done their best to present this referendum as a battle between rival cost-benefit analyses, it is still – as it has always been – about the idea.

There’s always been a constituency for independence and it’s always been larger than many people imagine. Always. How often have you heard a variation on the theme of I like the idea but I’m no’ sure we could really do it? or Yes, in an ideal world and all other things being equal (but not, alas, in this world).

Even when the idea was ridiculous it was attractive, you see. The idea being Scotland as Scotland. Ever since the bells at St Giles asked How Can I Be Sad On My Wedding Day? there’s been an ambivalence at the heart of all but the most devout brand of Unionism.

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