No such thing as 'amicable': The price of a Scottish divorce


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The Independent Online

Should the Better Together bandwagon be taking the high or the low road? With just a month to go until the Scottish referendum on independence, that's the big question being batted around inside Alistair Darling's campaign team: step up the heat or stay quiet.

Those who want to ramp up the pressure argue that, while Darling clearly trounced the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, in last week's TV head-to-head, nothing should be left to chance. By contrast, those arguing for staying below the radar say the tide is turning so quickly against the SNP that doing too much might end up irritating voters.

Keeping up the tempo is what M&C Saatchi, the ad agency masterminding the campaign, is advising. Saatchi's boss, Moray MacLennan – Fettes College and Scottish rugby player – is said to have more up his sleeve, including a cracking "No Thanks" poster campaign to run right up to the vote. The No vote needs a big turnout, so catching the last-minute voter is essential, said one insider, who added: "Referendums are dangerous things, especially this one, which is so mixed with emotion. There are still many people who will wake up on the day not having made up their mind. How you feel on the day is vital to how you vote."

Most opinion polls bear out the change in mood. Until now, it's been widely assumed that voting is being dictated by the heart rather than the head. Not so. There's been a big swing towards "No Thanks" following the latest warning from Sir Andrew Large, former deputy governor of the Bank of England, that Salmond's claim that if Scotland votes Yes there will be no change to the currency, is a delusion at best. As Large explained so forcefully, a vote against political union is also a vote against currency union.

Surprisingly, the two groups that are coming out most in favour of staying in the UK are the under-25s and women. Apparently, the youngsters see the SNP as old-fashioned and last century, while women of all ages are querying the economic logic of pulling away and worry most about losing sterling as a currency.

Add into the mix the tricky issue of who owns the oil reserves (they are owned by the UK plc), future wealth transfers and removing Trident from Scotland, and voters are beginning to see that it may be impossible for Salmond to deliver on his vision. That's why a growing number of people believe he doesn't want to win at all. In fact, losing is better, as he gets devo max with more powers. But if he wins the vote, he'll find himself plunged into a bloodbath. He must know that, once you get divorced under duress, your ex-partner is unlikely to give away their wealth without a fight. A fine plan, by George

The average speed of train journeys from Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield to London is 77.6mph. But the average speed of train journeys between those northern cities is just 46mph. No wonder the Chancellor, George Osborne, is pushing for new investment for the North to create a "northern powerhouse", with the centrepiece of his plans a new Manchester-to-Leeds high-speed train link.

It's a brilliant idea. Yet those on the left and right have been quick to shout down Osborne's plans, either claiming they are a political stunt for next year's election or that there isn't enough money. They are being short-sighted; this is an opportunity for the North's great cities to create new jobs, new technology centres and new inward investment and it can only be done with new government money; private money will follow. Instead of arguing, they should be jumping on his promise of £15bn and look to Silicon Valley in the US – an area of 15 cities and 30 universities – to learn how to do it. Travel is the essence: George Stephenson built the world's first public railway in 1830, between Liverpool and Manchester, thus helping to consolidate the North's first industrial revolution. Go George, you could be the catalyst for a second revolution and it's a vote-winner

Keeping mum on childcare

Gabby Logan has stirred up a fragrant fracas with her criticism of BBC male colleagues for asking her, "Who's looking after your children?" when she covered the World Cup in Brazil. Ms Logan is steamed up because no one ever asks her colleagues who is looking after their children. Or, indeed, who was looking after her twins when her husband, former Scottish rugby star Kenny Logan, was working in Australia last year.

But Ms Logan is wrong to be so irritated; she should thank her stars that men deign to talk about childcare at all. It's only a decade or so ago that mentioning children was taboo at work. As for childcare, well, that was as taboo as a Brazilian. Happily, that's changing. And you know why? Because men have started to enjoy being fathers, to the extent that it's they who call a halt to meetings, usually with a little smirk: "Got to go as I'm picking little Johnny up from school." If Ms Logan wants to get even, she could do the same.

Time for a cyberspace sit-in

Modern technology brings the strangest of paradoxes. At the click of an app or the flick of a button, we can watch in real-time the terrible pictures of children being blown up in Gaza and soldiers in Israel, the plight of the Yazidis being hunted down in Iraq or bombings in Syria and Ukraine, to name just a few hotspots. There's an assumption that, because of this relatively new immediacy, we should be able to do something to stop the bloodshed. Ironically, it makes us feel all the more helpless; even the tweeting of celebrities expressing their outrage feels hollow.

So here's an idea that uses the power of social media: let's start an Occupy the Web campaign. Everyone should down tools and stop using or posting messages on Facebook or Twitter other than to express their horror over war in a peaceful way: a modern-day Gandhi sit-down in the ether. Advertisers would hate that.