Scottish independence: ‘Don’t Cares’ prove thin on the ground

The ‘Stuff-The-Lot-Of-You’ faction is missing in Middle Scotland

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It is extremely difficult to find a Yes supporter in some towns on the English border; and I have met people in Edinburgh who claim never to have met a No voter.

In the Lanarkshire pit village of Cleland, another group is missing. Plenty of Yesses, Noes and – even at this late stage – Undecideds. But no sign of that group familiar at every normal election: the Stuff-The-Lot-Of-You faction. Cleland has no Don’t Cares, perhaps Scotland has none anywhere.

Half a dozen people, organised by the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency Better Together group, met in Cleland’s rundown Main Street to blitz the new housing estate down the hill. It has been a tough month for these activists. Their national campaign has reverted to its early tendency, partially eradicated in midsummer, to be both patronising and tone-deaf.

It has also become negative in the most obvious sense, by emphasising not togetherness but No, Thanks. HQ even answers the phone with “No, thanks”, as though rejecting your call.

“No, thanks” is a downbeat answer, whatever the question. “Would you like more pudding?” “Will you sleep with me tonight?” “Do you want Scotland to be free?”

But, the canvassers insisted, the Yes surge identified by the polls has not been evident on the doorsteps round Motherwell. Or not much, anyway. And we did find voters who said things that would be music to the Westminster leaders’ tin ears.

There was salesman Stephen Nelson, once leaning Yes, now leaning No. “I feel the high street is on its knees, from the small wee shop to the Royal Bank of Scotland. And you hear these things about the bad effects if we went Yes. Is it scaremongering? I don’t know.”

There was prison officer Paul Kerr, who votes SNP but will probably go No (a surprisingly common phenomenon). “If the RBS and Bank of Scotland still functioned as Scottish banks it would be a much clearer vote. But now everything’s pretty much based in England. And that will create problems.”

And there were two women, both anxious to withhold their names, who reported low-level intimidation by Yes supporters: posters defaced, shouting down in discussions, intimidation on Facebook.

One worked at the giant Sky call-centre at Livingston. “A lot of people at work are saying Yes,” she admitted. “Or at least, they’re the ones doing the talking.”

If high-level ineptitude has been the hallmark of the No campaign, an undertow of low-level impatience shading into intolerance has suffused the other side.

This was as near Middle Scotland as you can find: there is damn all in Cleland now but it is an easy road or rail commute to the cities, so the area has some prosperity. And the conversation was almost wholly affable, if sometimes confusing.

“Have you decided how you’re voting?”

“Aye.”

“You’re No, yes?”

“Yes. No.”

That appeared to constitute support and, interpreting the figures a bit generously as campaigners always do, Joe Hands, the team leader, reported 71 contacts in an hour: 23 Yesses, 38 Noes, 10 Don’t Knows.

Don’t Cares, Get Knotted, I Hate You Alls: zero.

None of the Yesses was aggressive, either. If that means Scotland is still a good-natured country as well as an engaged one, it will need to be: 51 or so per cent in favour would be a flimsy, maybe unsustainable, basis for a new nation state.

Whatever the result of the referendum, there will have to be a great deal of reconciliation in the months ahead.

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