By Niall Paterson
“Put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.” That is the message Alex Salmond will deliver to delegates today at the SNP’s Spring Conference.
As the nationalist party committed to fulfilling an 80-year pledge to gain Scotland its independence from the United Kingdom continues to reduce the gap in the polls ahead of September’s referendum, he is expected to maintain that the vote is not about him.
“This referendum is not about this party, or this First Minister, or even the wider Yes campaign,” he will say in the speech.
“It’s about putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands. Our party is hugely popular, and we are currently five, 10 and 15 points ahead in polls for Westminster, Europe and Holyrood respectively.
“But a Yes vote in September is not a vote for me, or for an SNP government in 2016. It’s a vote for a government in Scotland that the people of Scotland choose, pursuing policies the people of Scotland support.”
The speech, much like the campaign, will make much of the fact that Scots have voted in a way at significant variance with the overall result of recent general elections.
He will say: “I tell you what (the government of an independent Scotland) won’t be. It won’t be a government led by a party with just a single MP in Scotland. A government dismantling our welfare state. Determined to privatise public services.
“In an independent Scotland we can give this guarantee: The era of unelected Tory governments handing out punishment to the poor and the disabled will be gone and gone for good.”
Results vary, but the Yes campaign is still significantly behind the No vote in all major polls, although the margin has narrowed in recent months.
And despite the fact the Yes campaign has yet even to come close to a majority in said polls, the SNP leader in Westminster remains upbeat, with five months of campaigning to go.
“When people are able to contrast the Yes case with the No case and understand the momentum is going in the direction of the Yes case, I’m confident we will get a Yes result,” Angus Robertson MP told Sky News.
“It might surprise some people in the bunkers of Whitehall and Westminster when it does, but when they wake up they will realise this is about Scotland governing itself like so many other places have decided to do over recent decades.
“We will have excellent relations with our friends on these islands. But we will always have a government that we actually elect making better decisions for people who life here – regardless of where they are from.”
Given their lead in the polls it’s unsurprising that the Better Together camp remains positive, despite considerable media and public opinion branding their campaign negative.
Asked whether it was easier for people to enthuse about independence rather than maintaining the status quo, Lewis Macdonald, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament, told Sky News: “It’s important to say there’s a lot to be enthusiastic about.
“The union has worked very, very well for many generations and it’s delivered us many benefits. But this isn’t about change versus the status quo. This is about devolution, the kind of change that people in Scotland have wanted for a long time.
“It’s a referendum that will be decided by the judgement people make at the end of the day. I think many people have made up their minds, some still have to choose. My expectation is that those people who still have to make up their mind will come to the same conclusion as those who have already made up their mind.
“At the moment, and for as long as I can remember the split has basically been two to one for remaining in the UK. I expect that the undecideds will come down in much the same kind of split. But only time will tell.”