Three opinion polls last night all put Scotland’s anti-independence vote at 52 percent, the secession campaign on 48. If accurate, the “Yes” camp will have to move heaven and earth in the next 24 hours to turn the tables despite having dramatically narrowed the gap.
The towering caveat is that no one knows if the polls are accurate and if not, in which direction they have got it wrong. The latest trio showed between 8 and 14 percent of Scotland’s 4.3 million voters at least say they are still undecided.
Before the day is out we will see at least three more opinion polls – the final verdicts before the real voting starts. As things stand, the aggregated poll of polls has the race slightly tighter – at 51 to 49 percent.
Here are the key things to look for beneath the headline figures:
1. Turnout. The polls consistently show the elderly are the most staunch “No” voters and will turn out in droves. That means turnout will have to be very high in the other demographics to offset them.
2. Look beneath the headline figures to the questions about whether people think Scotland and Scots would be financially better off as an independent country. Some recent polls have shown a jump in the number of people who think they won’t be.
3. Watch the “don’t know” count. It should start shrinking and support for independence will have to rise as it falls if the “Yes” camp is going to prevail.
The other great imponderable is whether there is a “shy” or “silent” no vote – people who are loath to admit in public that they fear the consequences of independence but will vote against in the privacy of the ballot box. That is utterly unmeasurable though analysis of previous referendums of this type around the world suggests that more often than not the vote for change represented in the polls hasn’t been delivered on the day.