Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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William Walter: Salmond’s failure contains a sobering lesson for those wanting to quit Europe

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To be successful, those advocating Britain’s withdrawal from Europe must learn from the shortcomings of the Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign.

Alex Salmond’s principle failure was his inability to persuade the Scottish middle classes. Those voting for independence were predominantly young, poor and unemployed. Only four Scottish councils out of 32 voted to break away from the Union. Of these, the three with the highest proportion of ‘Yes’ votes – Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and Glasgow – are characterised by comparatively higher rates of unemployment than the rest of Scotland. In contrast, Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders and the Orkney Islands had the greatest proportion of No votes and are comparatively more affluent.

Rhetoric alone will not persuade educated voters. A clear robust blueprint is needed. Despite some creative accounting and economic wizardry, Salmond’s White Paper – unveiled last year, and optimistically titled: ‘Scotland’s Future’ – failed to stand up to scrutiny and was unable to answer key economic and governance questions, such as the adopted currency of an independent Scotland and future revenue streams.

This uncertainty was exacerbated by legitimate threats from big name employers that, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, they would move south of the border, taking their jobs with them. These significant question marks played into the hands of the Better Together camp.

Like a pool of investors, the electorate demonstrates a range of tolerance profiles toward risk. Some bear a greater degree of risk than others for any given reward. The majority are risk averse. The more uncertainties resolved, the greater the proportion won over.

The ‘Out’ camp must answer these uncertainties. It must present a clear robust economic argument for a Britain outside Europe if they are to be successful. They must also be prepared for the economic and business threats that will be levelled against them.

Another challenge is the gift of last minute concessions. Whilst the usefulness of David Cameron’s last minute carrot he threw to the Scots in the form of more devolved powers remains uncertain, some commentators are emphatic that he saved the day for the ‘No’ camp. Similarly, the ‘Out’ camp in Britain must be prepared for last minute haggling from European members queasy at the prospect of one of Europe’s largest economies ditching Brussels and going it alone.

Lower the risk, strengthen the reward and Britain will vote for European independence.

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William Walter
Director of Campaigns at Media Intelligence Partners

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