Yes campaign sticks to grassroots while lobbyists expect union to remain

A leading Scottish independence figure has revealed that the Yes campaign will stick to its grassroots guns in the final days of the fight, as a new poll of the lobbying industry suggests the Nos have it.

The Yes Campaign: Focusing on grassroots campaigning
The Yes Campaign: Focusing on grassroots campaigning

Former Fleet Street veteran Ian McKerron, who leads the Yes campaign’s comms alongside business partner Gordon Hay, talked PRWeek through the final few days of a drawn-out battle.

"The majority of print titles are anti-independence," he said, "so while we have increased our marketing and advertising campaign the strength of the Yes campaign is in its grassroots volunteers, and converting people by conversation in communities and on doorsteps."

McKerron's comms team has expanded from three to seven staff in recent months, with a grassroots network of 300 local groups helping efforts to sway undecided voters.

"The battle with mainstream media is a difficult one, but the campaign will not be won through mainstream media; it will continue to be won through social media platforms and face-to-face conversations."

Having been significantly behind, the Yes campaign has made major strides in catching up with the Better Together campaign, resulting in a poll by The Sunday Times earlier this month that put it ahead of its rivals among Scottish voters. 

The poll caused shockwaves among the unionists, prompting David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to head to Scotland in an effort to secure No votes.  

But while the sentiment of the Scottish public remains unclear, a PRCA survey of its public affairs members was more unequivocal - 85 per cent of lobbyists predicted a No vote while just 15 per cent predicted a Yes vote.

The poll, taken on 12 and 13 September, involved 62 senior public affairs figures and took a mean average of all predictions for vote shares, suggesting that the industry believes that the No campaign will gain 53.65 per cent of the vote, compared with Yes at 46.35 per cent.

However, McKerron believed that the Better Together campaign had blown its chances in how it approached the thorny question of whether Scotland would retain the pound.

"The pound and the currency union was clearly what the No campaign considered to be its trump card," he said, "but from a strategic point of view it played it far too early. Of course it had an instant impact, but since then it is being seen as a bluff and a scare story."

Better Together head of comms Rob Shorthouse did not respond to requests for comment.

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