SHOULD Scotland be an independent country or not? In negotiations concluded on October 15th, David Cameron secured the single in-or-out question that he wanted. But the choice facing Scottish voters in 2014, and the campaigns to influence them, will not be nearly as simple as the words on the ballot suggest.
John Curtice, a psephologist at Strathclyde University, says that Scots divide into three roughly equally-sized camps. The first lot want independence. The second prefer the status quo. A final group, accounting for about 30% of those polled, would like to stay in the union but also want more powers for Scotland. In effect, they are the swing voters. With two years to go until the referendum, the campaigns are already converging on them.
The separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) will try to woo them by making independence seem trivial. The party has already underlined its enthusiasm for the queen, the BBC, the pound, the Bank of England’s interest rates and British opt-outs from irksome European Union rules. Its leader, Alex Salmond, talks of a “social union” between England and a newly-independent Scotland. But he will have a hard time convincing Scots he can deliver these things. Independent Scottish participation in sterling, EU opt-outs and the BBC are not, and will never be, in his gift.