The referendum on Scottish Independence will take place on 18th September 2014 and, with almost exactly one year to go before the vote, the No campaign has the edge. However, with plenty of voters undecided, can Alex Salmond turn things around?
In the Betfair markets No is [1.17] and Yes trails at [5.3].
With one year to go before the Scottish independence referendum, momentum appears to be with the 'No' campaign. In the Betfair markets 'No' is [1.17] and 'Yes' trails at [5.3]. That's very bad news for Scottish first minister Alex Salmond because, in major elections of the last half-decade, the odds have been reliable indicators of which way votes will go.
Why is the Yes Scotland campaign struggling to connect with people? David Cameron agreed in March to hold a referendum next autumn but some Scots have argued for independence since the union was formed in 1707. So you'd have thought Salmond would be ready to seize this historic opportunity.
The British Prime Minister has form, however, when it comes to holding referendums that he believes he can win. Remember electoral reform? If Scotland doesn't choose independence in 2014, it could be a long time before it gets the chance to do so again.
Perhaps the problem for Yes Scotland is Salmond himself. His personal ratings are in decline and there's a feeling among a growing number of voters that he's put Scotland on pause while the SNP campaign for independence. And the Westminster parties, which are throwing their weight behind the Better Together (No) campaign, have been swift to capitalise on Salmond's woes.
A recent poll, commissioned by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, found that 49% of voters disliked Salmond. It gave 'No' a massive 40% lead but another poll, carried out by the SNP, put 'Yes' one point ahead. However, Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour's deputy leader and the MP for Glasgow Central, joined in the attacks on the SNP leader: "It's time for Alex Salmond to stop putting the referendum first and Scotland second. He's increasingly out of touch with Scots who want government to focus on getting our economy growing, creating jobs and fixing our NHS."
The argument that independence is a distraction from key issues strikes a chord with voters when the subject of money is raised. If Scotland breaks away from the UK, what currency will it use? Better Together supporters say an independent Scotland couldn't keep the pound and, they point out, now would be a terrible time to join the euro.
But is there ever a time when questions of economics, employment and healthcare aren't acute? Salmond argues that independent Scotland could retain the pound, a plan which he'll describe in detail when the SNP publishes a white paper on independence in November. This, they hope, will convince voters of the benefits of leaving the union.
Next year is a big one north of the border: Gleneagles will host the Ryder Cup the week after the referendum but, more significantly in terms of the national mood when Scots go to the polls, Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games in July/August.
It remains to be seen whether Salmond can use the games as an opportunity to show that he can lead a confident, independent nation. So far, Scottish sporting personalities have been distinctly cool on the prospect of independence with both Sir Alex Ferguson and Chris Hoy supporting Better Together.
But it might not be all over. The 'No' campaign isn't taking victory for granted and this week former chancellor of the exchequer, and Better Together chairman, Alastair Darling said he believes public opinion is "pretty fluid". He thinks there are plenty of undecided voters who could choose 'Yes'.
Darling's words are designed to mobilise 'No' voters and, as the 'Yes' campaign goes in to overdrive from November, Salmond will impress on his supporters the need to get out to polling stations on that all-important Thursday next September. A high turn-out is likely and it might be worth backing 65 to 70% at around [3.0].