RECENTLY someone asked why there had been so little movement in the polls despite Brexit going as successfully as Eddie the Eagle’s Olympic medal bid. That’s not really a fair comparison, though, since Eddie did actually manage to take off at the end of the ski jump, whereas the British Government’s Brexit efforts have consistenly fallen flat on their face without even pointing themselves in the right direction. Brexit is more like one of those videos on YouTube of people falling over in the snow and hurting themselves badly. Given the multicoloured crapastrophe that is befalling the UK, support for independence really ought to be considerably higher than it is. Despite everything that has happened, the polls haven’t budged. Why is that?

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You might think that anyone who has been paying attention would have been horrified by the progress of Brexit. But that’s precisely the issue, as far as politics are concerned most people aren’t paying attention. They’re like the people falling over on the ice and hurting themselves in the YouTube videos because they’ve not been watching where they’re going. Brexit might occupy the news agenda, but it hasn’t actually taken place yet. For people who don’t live and breathe politics, which is the vast majority of the population, Brexit can safely be filed under “I’ll deal with it when it happens”.

Most people aren’t really very interested in politics. The way that politics is consumed doesn’t inspire confidence in the political process for most people in the country. Politics is generally presented to us as people in business attire avoiding questions on the television. It comes across as a series of people saying not very much about abstract issues and desperately trying to avoid saying anything that can be used against them in the future. Theresa May is a master of the art of using a large number of words to say nothing much at all, which is possibly the only real political talent that she has. The effect, which may or may not be deliberate, is to turn people off, to disengage them.

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Most people don’t really like to be told that everything is going to go terribly wrong, especially when they don’t see the evidence in their daily lives. In this respect Brexit isn’t like the Scottish independence referendum campaign, when the people of Scotland were subject to a barrage of scare stories and fear mongering. Brexit is a far greater cause of uncertainty and is far more likely to cause economic damage than Scottish independence, but whereas the positive case for independence was scarcely heard in the traditional media during the independence referendum campaign, many of the newspapers were and are cheerleaders for Brexit, and the broadcast media is far more willing to demonstrate balance and even handedness in its coverage of Brexit than it ever was in its coverage of independence. For everyone warning of the reality that Brexit is a very bad thing, there are five episodes of BBC Question Time featuring Nigel Farage. The result is that most people receive mixed messages.

The effect of Brexit won’t start to be seen in opinion polling about support for Scottish independence until the effects of Brexit start to be felt, and even then it’s going to be up to the indy movement to join up the dots for people. Our task in the months ahead is to demonstrate to the people of Scotland both how Brexit is damaging Scottish interests, and how independence can protect our country from its ill-effects.

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The other reason that the polls haven’t shifted is that there is a lack of focus. Those of us who are involved in the independence movement have never stopped campaigning, but there is no date set for another independence referendum so most people are not engaged with the campaign or with the issues. Normal service has been resumed, and people are thinking about other issues. That can be expected to change once there is a date for another independence referendum. It will focus people’s minds, both within the movement and outwith it. When there is a date set for another referendum people will become engaged, will start to think about the issues, and we can expect to see movement in the polls.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that people who formerly backed a No vote against independence have now shifted to supporting Yes. Some of those include prominent people within the Labour Party in Scotland. There’s also plenty of anecdotal evidence that EU citizens have shifted from a No majority the last time to being considerably more sympathetic to the arguments for independence. Yet this movement hasn’t been reflected in the polls. Clearly some people who once supported Yes have drifted away.

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Some research work done for Common Weal suggests that there has been a marked drop in support for independence amongst older women. There is also likely to have been a dropping away in support for independence amongst pro-Brexit working-class voters. I’ve visited independence groups all across the country, and have met with many people who voted for Brexit but who also supported independence. None of them would vote against independence in a future referendum over the issue of Brexit, but these are people who are involved in Yes groups, so are by definition confirmed Yes voters. People whose support for independence was more conditional are more likely to have changed their minds.

In order to get these voters back, it’s vital that we don’t link the independence issue during the next referendum campaign to the issue of EU membership. A former Yes voter who voted for Brexit is not going to be persuaded back to Yes if the main pitch being made by the Yes campaign is to vote for independence so that Scotland can become a member of the EU. The next independence referendum should be fought on the basis that it’s for the people of Scotland to decide what sort of relationship they want with the EU, not a Brexit foisted upon us by the Tory right wing. That’s a message that could gain traction amongst working-class Brexit voters in places like Glasgow.

The key to winning Scottish independence will be to attract back the support of people who once supported independence but who have since cooled on the idea. It’s likely that these people were always “soft Yeses”, but they supported independence once, and they can be persuaded to do so again. That’s why we’re going to win.