UK & World News

  • 9 June 2014, 9:28

Scotland Couch Trip Reveals Voters' Views

The office sofa will never be the same again.

One end of its orange upholstery is covered in dead flies, the consequences of a "couch trip" around Scotland on roof rails. And it smells of fish after a morning on the floor of Peterhead fish market.

It also bears - and this was the point - the thoughts of Scots up and down the country about their forthcoming independence referendum, written in permanent ink.

Our plan was to take the Sky News bureau sofa on the road, sit Scots down, and ask them the question they'll answer in writing in 100 days' time: Should Scotland be an independent country?

It's striking how many Scots now have a ready answer when asked about the referendum. As a Scottish-based journalist, I've long ventured into the street in search of people's views on the matter. Through wilderness years of relative apathy, dozens would simply roll their eyes and declared they didn't do politics.

Now, nearly everyone's got something to say. A population has knuckled down to the arguments and the complexities and, as the business end of the campaign approaches, most get the importance and the relevance.

So what is the view from the sofa?

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, self-interest is the starting point for Scots pondering their country's political path. At Peterhead fish market, for example, I sat down on the couch with Jimmy Buchan, the skipper made famous by the TV series Trawlermen.

He intends to vote No - the reason being as much about Europe as the United Kingdom. In the fishing ports of the UK, there has long been anger at Brussels' Common Fisheries Policy, which fishermen say has decimated the industry.

He told Sky News: "I'm voting No because I hope I get the chance to vote in a Westminster election next year, get Conservatives re-elected, who will then give me an EU referendum. All the other parties, apart from UKIP, want to take us further into Europe and be more committed to Europe.

"I understand Europe and I understand what it means as a trading place, but there comes a point where you're losing your national identity and national control on matters that are important to your community ... this is the only way I think we can address this."

On Orkney, I sat on the sofa inside St Magnus Cathedral with the Convener of Orkney Islands Council Steven Heddle. There is much talk here about independence, and not just for Scotland.

A petition has been put before the Scottish Parliament demanding that a subsequent referendum be held on independence for Orkney, the Shetland Islands and the Western Isles.

Orkney and Shetland have an estimated 67% geographical share of Scotland's oil and gas reserves and Orkney, in particular, is at the forefront of the renewable energy industry.

Councillor Heddle told me his administration isn't involved with the referendum petition and nor is it taking sides on September 18. Rather, he's concentrating his energy - with his island counterparts - on negotiating with Governments at Holyrood and Westminster for more power and autonomy.

He told Sky News: "We've joined together to mount a campaign because we feel we're innovative and self-reliant people here. We've demonstrated in the past that we can get on with things to our best advantage if we're allowed the freedom to do it."

We took the sofa onto Glasgow and to Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. Those declaring for Yes, No and "don't know" were probably an accurate reflection of what the polls tell us, with No voters in the majority.

In Glasgow, we met Tracy Carruthers, who had an interesting theory on the conundrum facing the Yes campaign - why women seem more reluctant than men to vote for independence.

Tracy, who is undecided on how she'll vote, told Sky News: "I think women are a bit more more sensible about things. Guys will just say 'let's do it anyway', but women, I think, weigh up all the pros and cons - how is it going to affect me, how is it going to affect my daughter etc., etc., whereas men are more selfish."

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