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Glasgow gears up for independence vote

With four months to go before the Scottish referendum, almost everyone is talking about it.
Last modified: 13 May 2014 15:50
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I was back home in Glasgow last week for my son’s birthday. His obsession is football. But almost everyone else seemed to be talking about the referendum on Scottish independence.

I had only just left the airport when the taxi driver who picked me up in his black cab got onto politics. As we passed the shipyard cranes along the River Clyde, he described how he had always supported Labour, which is campaigning to keep the UK together.

This is not unusual in a city that hasn’t elected a Conservative MP since 1979.

However, he added that he was leaning towards a "Yes" vote because he feared that popular left-wing policies like free prescriptions would be taken away if Scotland votes "No" to indepenence.

When we stopped at the traffic lights, I noticed that the white van in front of us had a "UK Together" sticker on the back. Walking along the pavement was a man in a tweed jacket with a "Yes" badge pinned to his lapel.

It struck me that with four months to go before September’s poll, the level of engagement is already higher than I have seen in any election.

Furthermore, Labour insiders are getting increasingly nervous that working-class voters, like my taxi driver, are deserting them. Glasgow’s sprawling housing schemes are the key campaign battleground.

The international image of Scottish Nationalism is defined by Mel Gibson crying "Freedom" as he is disemboweled by the English. In fact, the "Yes" campaign is more Borgen than Braveheart.

The Danish political drama Borgen was a huge hit with Scotland’s political classes. "Yes" campaigners want people to believe that Edinburgh could be a little more like Copenhagen, embracing Scandinavian-style social democracy over London’s casino capitalism.

In what could be a turning point, two recent opinion polls show the Tories overtaking Labour in Westminster voting intentions. I can’t shake the feeling that if another Conservative government starts to feel inevitable, then so might Scottish independence.

It is a hard question for Labour folk in my home city to answer: how would you feel the day after David Cameron wins his second term if you voted "No" in the referendum?