The Scottish independence referendum will attract the largest voter turnout in the country’s history, Alex Salmond has predicted.
The First Minister said that he would not be surprised if the debate over whether Scotland should leave the UK resulted in 80 per cent of the country heading to their nearest polling station on 18 September.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, he said people with no previous history of voting would want to have their say on Scotland’s future. “I think the best bet of this referendum is a bet on an 80 per cent poll,” said Mr Salmond, who is a keen horse racing tipster. “If you can get odds on an 80 per cent poll, you bet it.”
When his interviewer, the historian Sir Tom Devine, pointed out that this would be the biggest turnout in Scotland’s history, he replied: “Absolutely, and many of the people who will be voting will be people who are not touched by opinion polls and opinion surveys, which tend to discount people with no voting record, and I think that’s going to be a major factor.”
Such a turnout could provide a boost to the Yes campaign, which is currently trailing in the opinion polls with just over five weeks to go before the vote. A YouGov survey partially carried out after last week’s televised debate between Mr Salmond and Alistair Darling, the leader of Better Together, found that 61 per cent of Scots are planning to vote No and 39 per cent Yes.
The First Minister also said that much of the blame for the collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland should rest with its London employees rather than those based in Edinburgh, where the firm has its HQ in Gogarburn.
Mr Salmond, a former RBS economist, said the bank’s capital markets division in London was largely at fault. “There hasn’t ever been a single employee of that division working in Scotland,” he said.
“Every single person works in the market division in London. Now I’m not saying that therefore the headquarters in Gogarburn are absolved of all the craziness that they engaged into. I’m just pointing out that to see RBS’s failure as a particularly Scottish matter is also wrong.”