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“We figured out 18 months ago we could we win this thing on the housing estates,” says a Yes Scotland volunteer, as he knocks on the door of a house in Mossblown. Three decades ago, the Ayrshire town, nestled in the south west of Scotland, was home to thousands of coal miners, who typically voted Labour. Those jobs have gone; work is today often found in the public sector or outside the town. Independence campaigners believe that winning over working-class Scots in towns such as Mossblown is vital to victory on Thursday.
Polling data suggest that the Yes campaign, led by the Scottish National Party, has the support of a majority of Scots on lower incomes. From the 1980s, the decline of the Conservatives in Scotland has meant that the great political battle over independence can feel as if it has been reduced to a proxy squabble between the SNP and Labour. In Mossblown, Yes believes it has already convinced many Labour voters to opt for independence.
Bill McGookin is one. The 68-year-old driving instructor rolls down the window of his car while he explains his vote. “I’m not voting for a person or a party. I’m voting for the youngsters’ future.” This message pleases the Yes volunteers; the campaign has presented itself as about more than the SNP – a positive movement forging a new open nationalism that rejects England’s insular austerity.
Mr McGookin, however, shares only some of the Yes campaign platform. He is at odds with them on immigration, wanting it to slow, and on social security benefits, which he would like cut. “Starting with the £5 a day everyone with a dog gets around here,” he says, in reference to the apocryphal idea that pet owners receive additional subsidies.
On the other side of Mossblown, Douglas Campbell, a former Labour turned SNP councillor, visits the houses on his list of undecided voters. Three out of seven target voters open their doors. They are all women, as the polls suggest. All asked that their names not be used.
“I’ve made up my mind,” the first woman says, “I’m voting yes.” Why? “The rich keep on getting richer and the poor get poorer.” Looking up the street, she adds: “We need a change.” Mr Campbell is cheered.
A few doors down, the message is less encouraging. “I see both sides but I just can’t make up my mind.” “Would you like an information booklet?” Mr Campbell politely asks. “Oh no. We’ve had quite enough of those.” She says she and her husband will read the material the night before and decide on their vote together.
“I worry that it will go wrong,” the third undecided says. Her vote has been turned to a No by friends and family. “My friend in Ireland says it’s the worst thing they ever did.” What was? “Independence.” She has heard other concerns too. “My son-in-law works in Norway. He says it’s £15 a pint there. I don’t want to be like Norway.” Mr Campbell leaves resigned, putting a “No” mark on his sheet of target voters.
As he closes the gate, there is a coda of hope for the volunteer. “Thanks for coming, mind,” the woman says, “I haven’t had any visits from the No lot.”