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May 25, 2012
Today’s launch of the ‘Yes’ campaign for the independence referendum (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18212846) gave Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond his first opportunity to try to regain the political momentum after the SNP fell short of its self-declared goals in the recent local Government elections.
The challenges ahead for the SNP in winning this campaign should not be underestimated.
Although emerging with more Councillors and votes than any other party, the SNP failed to wrest control of Glasgow City Council from the Labour Party. Opinion polling also continues to demonstrate that approximately two thirds of Scots oppose independence – a pattern that has remained consistent since the 1999 opening of the Scottish Parliament.
Convincing sceptical voters to take a leap into the constitutional dark and back independence remains a massive mountain for the SNP to climb between now and the 2014 referendum.
Of course, Alex Salmond understands this. He will be hoping that, before then, the enthusiasm many voters still feel for his Government at Holyrood – especially when railing against austerity and the budget cuts being handed down by the Conservative-led Coalition Government at Westminster – will translate into support for independence.
But following the local Government elections, there is evidence of life in the ranks of the Unionist parties in Scotland – especially Labour, which is now regrouping after repelling a formidable SNP challenge to its Glasgow stronghold. When the 'No' campaign launches next month, the battle will be joined. Both sides believe the stakes are high as the historic fight begins on the constitutional future of both Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.