Scottish independence: Civility returns to the campaign as polls narrow further

 

Senior Reporter

“It’s lovely to be back on my Irn-Bru crates,” cries Jim Murphy, leaping onto the plastic containers he is using as his soapbox as the cheering crowd gathered around him holding their No Thanks placards aloft. “Welcome back,” someone shouts.

Despite poll findings showing that supporters of independence are closer to realising their dream than ever before, the Labour MP resumed his speaking tour of 100 streets across Scotland yesterday to a rapturous reception from hundreds of Better Together supporters in central Edinburgh.

The 47-year-old was forced to suspend his journey last week after being egged as he addressed a crowd in the Fife town of Kirkcaldy, claiming that the Yes Campaign was orchestrating a “mob atmosphere” and intimidating undecided voters.

Embarrassingly, on the way to his soapbox, Mr Murphy had to dodge a tabloid journalist wearing a chicken costume. “I’m not a fearty, I’m not a coward – it was a matter of public safety,” he protested when asked why he had stopped his tour.

But there was little chance of a repeat of the hectoring in the genteel surroundings of Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Academy, where only a handful of Yes supporters were in evidence. One heckler who shouted “You are being deceived” during Mr Murphy’s speech was immediately cowed into silence by a quiet word from a police officer and the involvement of an elderly woman nearby, who told him viciously to “shut up”.

Mr Murphy suggested afterwards that the lack of Yes supporters was further evidence of dark forces at work. “Whoever turned on that noisy tap of aggressive behaviour has quietly turned it off again. I congratulate them,” he told reporters with a wink.

But David Coutts, one of the few Yes voters present, said there was a more obvious reason for the friendly crowd. “The people here today don’t reflect the views of the normal people of Scotland,” said the former Citizen’s Advice worker. “This is like a meeting of the CBI. I recognise three bank managers, a former Lord Provost, two Conservative councillors and three members of the House of Lords.”

Behind Mr Murphy’s energy and the jubilant atmosphere lay a definite undercurrent of concern. A YouGov poll published today showed that support for independence has increased by eight points in the last month, reducing the No lead to just six points. The results were immediately hailed as a “breakthrough” by Yes campaigners.

Mr Murphy’s attempts to brush off the suggestion that momentum was now with supporters of independence did not sound convincing. “I am confident we can win. Polls come and go. We’ve got a long way to go, there are a lot of arguments still to be had,” he said. “The No campaign is in the lead and if you ask me which campaign I’d rather be with… then I’d rather be with the leading campaign.”

Among the crowd of nervous No voters was office worker Alison Walker. “I’m worried about the whole thing, to be quite honest. The unfortunate thing is that there’s a lot of people who still haven’t made up their minds, and that’s going to sway it one way or another. It’s very difficult to predict at this stage.”

She was also critical of Better Together’s tactics, saying it had focused heavily on “glamorous campaigns” rather than appealing directly to voters like Mr Murphy. “He’s the only one who’s had the bottle and the guts to come out and do it, and that’s unfortunate,” she said.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, said the poll results were “very encouraging”, adding: “I have always thought we would win.”

But Downing Street insisted that there would be no change in tactics from the Government. “We have always said from the outset that there is never room for complacency, but of course the only poll that counts is the referendum itself,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Another thing worrying No voters is the idea that their voices has been drowned out of the debate by the more vocal, aggressive Yes side. David Lilburn, 32, a doctor and medical researcher, said he knew people who had registered for postal ballots because they were worried about potential hostility outside polling stations.

“I do feel that the Yes campaign has been quite in your face at times,” he said. “I’ve got quite a few friends who are Yes voters who’ve labelled me as a ‘shitebag’ because I don’t want to vote for independence. It does make me hesitant to even put a post on Facebook, which is a real shame.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager - Software & Services

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

Recruitment Genius: QA Technician

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of re...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat