‘Vote No and get more Tory governments we didn’t vote for’ and, of course, more Tory policies we absolutely reject. Or, presented the other way around, a Yes means no more Tory governments or policies the vast majority of us have rejected, ever.
However you phrase it, this simple truth is one of the biggest mill-stones around the neck of the No campaign and it probably explains some of the recent reduction in No support, with the average of monthly polls showing that the gap between Yes and No has halved since November. It is very difficult to argue with any credibility that anything involving a Tory government at Westminster could be described as the 'best of both worlds' and, yet, that is what Labour spokespeople are having to do on a daily basis. I am, therefore, looking forward to the No campaign's reported shift to a more 'positive' gear, expounding all the benefits of us having David Cameron (and his undoubted Tory successors) as our Prime Minister.
The potential for this 'United with the Tories' effect to reach crisis proportions for the No campaign increases as the polls narrow in the UK. Of course, last weekend saw a host of such polls with two showing Mr Cameron now only one-point behind Mr Miliband. This has been repeated today with YouGov, for the Sun, also now showing a one-point gap. And, if Mr Cameron edges into a lead, this will weigh very heavily on the minds of many Labour-inclined undecided or 'soft No' voters.
Like those Labour inclined voters, another Tory government at Westminster is the last thing I want. However, there is a big problem for people in Scotland: the Westminster system the No campaign is fighting tooth and nail to defend means we can vote against the Tories as much as we want, but that doesn't guarantee we won't get a Tory government. The decision is out of our hands because Scotland makes up just over 8% of the UK population. Since 1945, we've had only two elections – in 1964 and the first of 1974 - where the largest party at Westminster would have been different if Scotland had been independent. Those two UK governments sat for just 26 months, just half of one parliamentary term.
And, of course, in order to beat the Tories, Labour's Westminster high command too often feels as though it has to ape the Tories.
Last weekend, at Scottish Labour conference, we saw the party that Scottish Labour wants to be (and it had some strong and attractive elements) and, yet, this week in the welfare cap vote in the House of Commons we saw the party Westminster Labour has to be in order to win votes in the south. The contrast was not a pretty one, and the dark acts coming so swiftly after the shining rhetoric, was particularly jarring. A Yes would free Scottish Labour from this crisis of identity, freeing it to be the party it wants to be (and that would be good for Labour and Scotland).
But there is another, related problem for the No campaign and it is one the Tories are increasingly keen to talk about. Alongside some of his bizarre claims reported in the Sunday Herald last weekend, including that independence would mean reviving a medieval Scotland, was a revealing comment from Cabinet Minister, Kenneth Clarke. According to the paper, “Clarke also predicted a No vote would be vital for Tory momentum, helping the Conservatives win more seats in Scotland at the 2015 General Election."
This fits with previous comments by the Conservative’s new Scottish chairman, Richard Keen, with his confident claim in the Times in February
(19th) that a No vote will lead to the
revival of the Scottish Conservatives!
Completing this horrifying hat-trick was another Tory Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove, who last year told us in very clear terms that a No vote will be a Tory victory, as reported on STV.
As I’ve written before, it is likely that the biggest political beneficiaries of a No vote, across the UK, would be the Conservatives,
after all, on that scenario, Mr Cameron would be able to enter the 2015
UK election as the 'man who saved Britain'. If there is a No victory,
don't expect a starring role for Johann Lamont or Ed Miliband in the
celebrations: they will have served their purpose and it will be Mr
Cameron taking the credit. After a No vote, if the key marginals in the
south swing back to the Tories there is absolutely nothing we in
Scotland can do to stop it, which is why a Yes is so important. It is only with a Yes that Scotland's future remains in Scotland's hands.
If 'vote No and get more Tories' is bad for the No campaign, I can't help considering how much more damaging is the idea 'vote No and help the Tories'.