Thursday, 18 September 2014

It's all up for grabs..

Polls have been open for around an hour and a half and there's a mood of nervous anticipation. "Scotland's day of reckoning" says the Herald.  "Day of Destiny," is the Scotsman's splash - as is the Guardian's. "Don't leave us this way" pleads the Mirror: "Vote No today & keep Britain truly GREAT". "The 307-year itch" quips the Independent. 
"We have never doubted that the Scots can be an independent people once again; and they will make a good fist of it if they decide to go it alone," our leader says this morning, "But together we have been stronger, more prosperous, and more secure; apart we would both be diminished."

The polls put the Unionists narrowly ahead - but there's still a feeling in Yes Scotland that their surge has a little way yet to run, and that the pollsters will have struggled to make contact with the lower-income and younger voters who they believe will carry them to victory.
The mood within the No Camp is similarly optimistic. They too believe that they will outperform the polls. "We will win by six points," one senior Labour strategist predicted last night. The mood in that quarter is sufficiently rosy that already some minds are focussing on the battles to come, to take back Downing Street next year and Bute House thereafter.
Who's right? Frankly it's impossible to tell - and in, any case, any speculation will be rendered redundant in pretty short order. David Cameron is waiting, Ed Miliband is waiting - as, for different reasons, are the pollsters and the bookmakers. Whatever happens, we will all of us - both here in Scotland and south of the border - be permanently changed. A nervous wait lies ahead. 

FLASH GORDONSomething funny happens to Gordon Brown at the eleventh hour. In the last days of the 2010 election he gave the speech of his premiership and blunted the Liberal surge. Now he's given the speech of his life in defence of the Union - and quite possibly he's saved Better Together. (You can watch the video here"The Word of Gord" roars the Sun.
Gordon Brown's barnstormer has kicked off a flurry of speculation that he might swap Westminster for Holyrood in the event of a No vote - and could be Labour's man to beat Alex Salmond in the 2016 elections. Privately, however, older heads in Scottish Labour, for all they concede Mr Brown's stabilising effect on the Unionist campaign, recoil from the prospect of working closely with the ex-PM again. A man who could very well make the switch from London to Edinburgh is Jim Murphy, who has transformed his standing within and without his party, and, I'm told, that efforts are already underway to construct a campaign for Labour's shadow Dfid lead.
Firms that help to tackle obesity should be given tax breaks, Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, has suggested. Britain is sleepwalking into a "public health crisis", Mr Stevens warned. Laura Donnelly has the story.
The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has suggested that the government's plans to remove the cap on student numbers is "fuzzy", and could result in a substantial decline in the amount that universities spend on students. It's also expected to increase the number of students from the EU studying at UK universities, raising the prospect of a financial crisis for higher education, as tuition fee repayments are "notoriously difficult to collect" from graduates that live overseas. Graeme Paton has the details.
The oil-rich island of Shetland could opt to become a crown dependency rather than part of an independent Scotland, the island's MP - and Secretary of State for Scotland - Alistair Carmichael has suggested. Polls suggest that the island will vote heavily for the Union.
Polls will close at 10pm and we can expect the first results from around midnight - Georgia Graham's guide to what will declare when is here - and the campaigns expect that by three o'clock tomorrow morning, they will be able to say with confidence which way the vote is going. Remember that there is no possibility for a country-wide recount, and that local returning officers can be asked to recount in the event of an irregularities, not a close vote. The woman at the centre of it all, chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly, is profiled in the Daily Record.
The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as @stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams; you can see his cartoons on Instagram.

Conservatives 33% Labour 36% Liberal Democrats 8% Ukip 15% Others 9%
Poll of polls 11th to 18th September (Ipsos Mori-Opinium-Populus-YouGov) 
YouGov: Con 33% Lab 36% LD 8% Ukip 13% 
From the Telegraph
Niall Ferguson - Alone, Scotland will go back to being a failed state
Peter Oborne - Sorry, Grandfather, you were wrong about leaving the Union

From elsewhere 
David Aaronovitch - What have the Britons ever done for us? (Times)
George Eaton - The decision on whether to intervene in Iraq now rests in Labour's hands (Statesman)
The Telegraph Festival of Business is taking place once again on the 11th November, at The Brewery, London. Confirmed speakers include: Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group, Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Nigel Wilson,Chief Executive of Legal & General, Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado and Roger Bootle, Founder of Capital Economics and former HM Treasury Advisor. To register for your free place at the event, click here.
2200: Polls close in Scottish referendum.