This One Paragraph Explains Why Scottish Nationalists Might Be On The Verge Of Pulling Off The Unthinkable

Scotland alex salmondREUTERS/Russell CheyneScottish independence leader Alex Salmond is convincing voters that staying in Great Britain is just too risky.

After this weekend’s shock poll, which showed the pro-independence campaigners taking the lead in the Scottish referendum, the world is starting to take seriously the fact that Scotland might leave Great Britain.

Even still, betting markets think that NO will prevail, and that Scotland will stay. The conventional wisdom is that at the last second, voters will feel like it’s too much of a risk to vote YES, and that they will just stick with the status quo. That tends to be the pattern with referendums.

But Professor Alan Renwick explains how Scotland could turn that historical pattern on its head.

Basically, the pro-independence side is doing a good job of making it look like staying in Great Britain is risky. Scotland, which tends to be to the left of the political spectrum, is warning that leaders in London will cut healthcare spending if the status quo prevails. And they’re also warning that the U.K. might itself leave the EU in the near future, an unpopular prospect in Scotland.

Here’s Renwick:

Reversion point reversal relates to the fact that voters are generally risk-averse. The side of a referendum debate that can convince voters it can protect what voters most value about the status quo is likely to see its polling figures rise. In Scotland’s case, it seems pretty clear to an outside(-ish) observer that the uncertainties associated with independence are greater than those linked to staying in the UK. But Alex Salmond and other ‘Yes’ campaigners have been increasingly effective in arguing that, actually, independence is the best way to protect Scotland’s social model and its position as an open, friendly society within the European Union. Independence, says Salmond, will protect the NHS from the cutters and privatisers in Westminster. Independence, say pro-Yes businesspeople, will insulate Scotland from English isolationism in a future referendum on EU membership.

Indeed, this tweet from the official Yes Scotland Twitter account shows the campaign’s argument that under the status quo, cuts are coming, and that you better vote Yes if you want to keep your healthcare.

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