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A reminder of the vital case to vote

After so many months of fevered campaigning in the run-up to the referendum, generating vast numbers of think tank reports, debates and analyses, there is something of an irony in the prospect that the vote could be swung by something as prosaic as which side is better at getting its vote out.

Yet that is the conclusion drawn by analysts at ScotCen Social Research looking at last year's Social Attitudes Survey. They estimate that a difference in willingness to vote between the two sides could add as much as two points to the Yes side's share of the vote in September's referendum which, in a tight race, could "potentially make all the difference".

Indeed it could. The polls are narrowing, so a two-point on-the-day boost could be critical. The news has understandably been embraced by Yes Scotland. What will please in particular is that it is not just impassioned lifelong pro-independence supporters who are more likely to turn out to vote, but also those who have not yet decided but are leaning towards Yes.

Those leaning towards No were 19% less likely to say they would probably cast their vote than those leaning towards Yes, an alarming discrepancy for the pro-UK camp. The Yes campaign might also be secretly pleased by the suggestion that men are slightly more likely than women to say that they will get out to vote, given that the independence cause has proved less popular among women than among men.

There is one caveat to all this, namely that the data was gathered when the No campaign was comfortably ahead by a large margin and No voters perhaps felt their vote would scarcely be needed to secure the result they wanted.

The gains in the polls made by the Yes campaign have changed their view, impressing on them the importance of getting out to vote. Even so, Better Together is clearly well aware that it has a serious fight on its hands to ensure that complacency does not lose it the referendum. A drive to get pro-UK supporters to the polls will have to be a major part of its strategy as the referendum draws nearer.

It is clearly critically important for the credibility of the result that there is a strong turnout, no matter which way people vote. Earlier this week, concerns were raised by Better Together about the risk of campaign finance rules being circumvented because of difficulties policing them, raising the spectre of the result becoming mired in controversy. If that happened, and there were a low turnout, the whole referendum could descend into acrimony.

Fortunately, current projections predict a turnout of over 70%. The proportion of those saying they will turn out to vote has increased as the campaign has progressed, though there is still a much higher level of engagement among politics anoraks than those who are uninterested in politics. It is to be hoped those projections will prove to be accurate. A high turnout will help put the result beyond doubt and that is of vital importance in itself.

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