Before the Scotsman think I simply stole their headline, let me explain.
Twenty years ago, a whisky marketer hit upon a wheeze of bottling malt whiskies and labelling and promoting them for special occasions. One such was “a dram of destiny” – I bought three. One was for my dad, one for me and one for my granda: the intention was that we whisky buffs would all have something special to look forward to when Scotland eventually became independent.
And just as Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that when she became an SNP member at the tender age of sixteen, she never dreamed she’d be signing a referendum bill, so I have waited a very long time to dig my dram of destiny out from the recesses of the cupboard and put it out where I can see it. To remind me of how far we have come, how long we have waited and how, now that Scotland’s date with destiny is so close, we can almost taste it.
So, Scotland’s historic vote will be held on Thursday 18 September 2014. A surprise to many, it’s earlier than we all thought and suspected. Many were fretting that thanks to all the summer sporting shenanigans, it would be pushed back beyond the autumn school holidays and held as the days get shorter and gloomier.
Late September is a very good call and avoids the dog days of autumn. And if Scotland votes yes, it’s handily placed just before the September weekend, allowing for a long weekend of celebrations – unless you are in Edinburgh which for some inexplicable reason, has the previous Monday off. Still, there’s a day for getting the capital gee-ed up for a yes vote.
The Scottish Government has gone for a traditional polling day but I had hoped they might pull a further surprise on us by opting for a Saturday vote. It’s what they do in lots of European countries and seems to work fine for turnout. But perhaps, this wasn’t the vote to experiment with beyond extending the franchise. Confusing voters by changing the traditional polling day could have reduced the numbers who turn out and that would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps more prosaically, politicians like what they know and the parties have always tended to the traditional when it has come to fiddling with the franchise. And in any event, such a shift would probably have required Westminster approval, given that it still controls the rules and law on people voting. So a Thursday it is.
And before we get there, there’s a lot of work still to be done to persuade more people to vote yes. But I have no doubt that they will do.
Those who write off the independence cause this far out, with eighteen months to go, based on the polls’ showing in recent months, appear to have learned nothing from recent elections. In 2010, everyone was predicting that Labour would sweep back to power: indeed, the polls suggested this right up until early Spring. Yet, the SNP was confident from its private polling that it was building momentum and turning don’t knows their way and also starting to persuade other parties’ supporters to their cause. Its slow-burn campaign worked: we all know the result of that one.
It’s quite clear from the work going on just now that there is a campaign plan in place. The nay-sayers can jump up and down all they like demanding that the vote be held earlier, that the white paper on independence be published now, but the Scottish Government is working to a plan and increasingly, in campaigning terms, it is clear that no detail has been left to chance. This is the Yes camp’s campaign to lead and to boss and that in itself, gives a positive vibe to things. They are leading at a pace they want to and that is a good sign.
The aim, of course, is to build momentum, slowly but surely, until a tipping point is reached – as it was in 2011 – and the votes come tumbling over. The SNP has done it not once, but twice before and knows what is required. Anyone failing to take the 5/2 odds currently on offer for a yes vote, would be a fool to pass them up.
My date with my dram of destiny has a few months to wait yet, but I have no doubt it will come. Sadly, my granda’s no longer here to share it, but dad and I will be making sure to raise and share a toast with him. And to Scotland choosing a better future. And in honour of all those who walked this long journey, who made it possible but didn’t quite make it.