Fortune continues to shine on the Yes campaign - at least now and again.

Never has a single opinion poll had such a dramatic impact as last week's YouGov survey that suggested the No campaign's lead had been cut from 22% to 6% in a month. Suddenly, the London media woke up from its preoccupation with Ukip and Boris airport and realised that the end of the UK could be nigh.

Markets wobbled, HM Treasury announced it was "contingency planning". Newspaper editors realised the referendum isn't quite as cut-and-dried as they'd been led to believe. Instead of Alex Salmond being asked if he would resign after a No, the story became: will David Cameron resign if the outcome is Yes?

Actually, the poll in question wasn't that much out of line with other surveys, and in reality represented YouGov catching up with what was happening on the ground. The pollsters have had difficulty measuring what has been happening in the referendum, in part because it has been conducted largely through social networks, community events and face-to-face encounters. "Indyref" has reached the parts most General Election campaigns have not.

But timing is everything, and the YouGov poll coincided with something of a crisis in the Unionist prospectus. Currency was always an arcane issue on which to base the case for the continuing UK. And while the Scottish press is still obsessed with Plan Bs and Panamisation, Scots had moved elsewhere - to jobs, social justice and the future of the NHS.

Labour found large numbers of its own voters really don't care what currency they have in their pockets, so long as they can feed their families and find a decent job. Ed Miliband donned the mantle of social justice and raced to Scotland claiming Alex Salmond was planning to line the pockets of big businesses with cuts in corporation tax - slightly forgetting Labour had cut corporation taxes when in office in Westminster, and that big businesses are supposed to be all leaving Scotland in fear of independence.

In London, the YouGov poll also woke the metropolitan commentariat, who took a closer look at the Better Together campaign and found it wanting.

Some prominent columnists such as Deborah Orr and John Harris in the Guardian have taken an informed interest in the Scottish question. But most of their colleagues have been indifferent or believed that, while the SNP had introduced some left-sounding policies, Alex Salmond was still in the business of division and insularity - cutting Scotland off from England so that he could hoard the oil, leaving the impoverished masses of the south to go hang. Or something like that.

It took environmental campaigner George Monbiot to challenge this social solidarity argument head-on with one of the most passionate declarations of Scottish independence I've seen north or south of the Border. Scotland's role in life is not to seek to liberate England from Conservatism, he wrote in The Guardian, but to insulate itself from Westminster establishment.

"To vote No," he said, "is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world's highest levels of inequality and deprivation. [That] treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries, and the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable". Strong stuff. The debate exploded on social media and Monbiot said he'd never seen so much traffic for a single article.

On the other side of the political fence, the Unionist columnist Simon Jenkins argued last week he too would vote Yes if he was Scottish if only because of the dismal character of the Unionist campaign, "the jeering, patronising, money-obsessed Project Fear". Mind you, those who read past the headline found Jenkins isn't dreaming of some happy social democratic future under benevolent SNP governance. "Salmond's lies," he said bluntly, would cause a financial crisis and "Greek-style austerity, whereupon voters would chuck Salmond out. The Tories might even revive as the party of discipline and offshore capitalism."

Now I don't believe Scotland remotely resembles Greece or would suffer a financial crisis after independence. Though it's not inconceivable there would be a reaction against a complacent or financially stretched SNP Government, I'm pretty sure it would be Labour, not the Tories, who would be the beneficiaries. But this debate really isn't the property of the left, the SNP, or any political party. It's about the right, democratically, of the Scottish people to elect the governments of their own choosing.

However, one of the ironies of indyref is that some of the best writing recently has come from Unionists - generally bemoaning the feebleness of the No campaign. Hugo Rifkind penned an insightful account for The Times last week on his near-despair, saying: "All the magic has been surrendered, and so feebly, to the other side." At The Spectator, Alex Massie bubbled over with excitement: "From Brora to Ecclefechan, Coupar Angus to Tobermory, this is a time of great and energetic disputation. The referendum is inescapable. Something is happening and that something is important."

Of course, Alex Massie and Hugo Rifkind, as their surnames imply, are Unionists to their desert boots. They hope and believe Scotland will remain in the UK. But their tributes to the campaign's dynamism are sincere and there seems to be a consensus emerging on both sides of the Scottish constitutional divide that the imprint of the campaign on Scottish political culture will last beyond the referendum.

Scotland has indeed changed; but as yet we are not sure to what. The answer to that question lies on the far side of Thursday week. We've become so absorbed in the twists and turns of this extraordinary campaign that we're in danger of forgetting that it is about to come to an end. So,

what of the result? Yes has momentum, colour and excitement. But does it have electoral staying power? Will inspiration make a better nation? Well, unlike Jim Murphy, I'm not counting any chickens. It is easy to lose perspective when you have been exposed to a campaign even Unionists say has knocked the moral and intellectual socks off Better Together. As Jenkins put it: "For six months [Yes] has staged a festival of democracy, an Edinburgh Tattoo of argument." But like the Edinburgh Festival, it isn't clear how many Scots have actually bought tickets.

Many voters still take their lead from conventional media, and the Scottish and UK press, columnists aside, is as editorially negative as ever, recycling tales of conflict that are always the fault of the Yes campaign. The Scottish Police Federation chairman Brian Docherty had to intervene last week to say the referendum debate had been "robust but overwhelmingly good-natured" and that to suggest otherwise is "a disservice to those who have participated". I can't remember the press being ticked off by the police before for inflammatory reporting of an election. Another indyref first.

But Better Together campaign supremo Blair McDougall knows exactly what he's doing and is confident that, with the help of the media, "the silent majority" will ride to the rescue of the Union. Scots aren't revolutionaries and they abhor street politics and conflict. The No campaign's news management has been professional and disciplined. Day by day they have fed stories to the press and seen the Yes campaign squeezed out of the news cycle.

In the days after Alex Salmond's victory in the second TV debate the front pages were dominated, not by threats to the NHS or Alistair Darling's gaffe over the Work Programme, but by a letter from Unionist businessmen, a speech from the football commentator Archie Macpherson, and an egg thrown at the Labour MP Jim Murphy. That's not good. You need to press home your advantage.

The Yes Campaign hasn't run a bad media campaign but it focuses heavily on TV, social media and word of mouth - and maybe that's enough.

Perhaps the carnival will go on and Scots will decide they just can't face a return to the humdrum half-life of before, when their political ambition was confined by the Westminster establishment. Or perhaps fear will prevail. Scottish voters may decide that with Westminster threatening, effectively, to wreck an independent Scottish economy, now might not be the best time to test if they are serious.

Either way, life will go on. As Alex Salmond said two years ago: "Scotland will be judged on how it conducts this debate." The verdict is in and it's positive.