Optimism might just be taking over in the indy debate

SINCE Alex Salmond announced the indy referendum date 11 months ago, we've been treated to fancy footwork Lionel Messi would envy.

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When it comes to ducking and diving, even Ronaldo would struggle to match a politician pushing a dodgy manifesto.

A tiresome daily diet of bribes and promises, scaremongering and prophecies of doom - all peddled by a Union-dominated Scottish media has served merely to confirm an old truth.

Politicians will always be there when they need us, as self-serving and welcome as midges in Loch Lomond's nudist colony.

And when it comes to Scotland's indy "debate", the only certainty is that facts, verifiable truths, become scarcer than oxygen the higher we get.

Take Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont ("Please!", I hear the cry) and her plans to devolve tax-raising powers to Holyrood in the event of the No vote she's in bed with the Tories to deliver.

She says she'll hike taxes to hammer the rich and squeeze the middle-classes, which up here equates to folk earning less than £42,000.

But was it significant that Ed Miliband gave his tartan minion less than lukewarm backing at Labour's Perth conference last week? Has Red Ed watered down Johann's devo dreams?

Ben Thomson, chairman of Reform Scotland and a member of the Devo Plus group, suggests someone has.

He says: "Labour's proposals increase parliament's tax-raising powers by less than 5% and represent only 26% of Scottish Government expenditure, well short of the 40% they claim.

"The report is clearly motivated more by short-term referendum politics than a real desire for significant further devolution."

And Charlie Jeffery, director of Edinburgh University's Academy of Government, suggests even the Tory devo plans could be more adventurous.

Ms Lamont's interview with Gordon Brewer on BBC Newsnight Scotland last week, when she tied herself in knots trying to defend her policy on taxation and housing benefit, was described - generously I thought - as a train crash.

She is leading Scottish Labour in a lurch back to the left, presumably in a bid to woo labour voters away from the SNP.

But someone should tell her that even a No vote would not be an endorsement of Labour lefties, any more than a Yes vote would show total support for SNP policies.

The SNP took Holyrood not because we suddenly were gripped by nationalist fervour but because voters were sick of Labour lies and incompetence (and they'd never vote Tory).

Labour's traditional grip on Scotland loosened when Tony Blair embraced the politics of his hero, Maggie Thatcher.

Blair loathed Old Labour, which had made them unelectable in Middle England. His New Labour changed all that. It made Labour unelectable in Scotland. Add that to his other legacies of the Iraq war, uncontrolled immigration and economic collapse in one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Blair would like to be remembered as a statesman, but that requires telling the truth even though it's unpopular. Blair was the consummate politician, telling us what was popular even though it wasn't true.

Which brings us back to Miliband, and his shambolic reply to George Osborne's Budget. He made no reference whatsoever to Coalition proposals, because he has no answers.

Osborne's promise to give workers total control of their pensions is a sure-fire winner among the middle-classes and the silver-haired brigade, those who typically bother to vote.

Those on low incomes and benefits, of no interest to the Tories, were blatantly ignored other than patronising references to "them" liking beer and bingo.

Labour's sole strategy during austerity has been to ridicule Tory cuts, even after it became obvious to the public they were a necessary evil.

Labour don't trust us to vote the right way on Europe so no EU referendum - and they also don't trust us to spend our own pensions, but they were more than happy to squander them on illegal wars we didn't sanction.

Now the economy is moving, albeit as slowly as Glasgow's pothole repairs, and Budget bribery has pushed the Tories neck and neck with Labour in the polls for next year's UK General Election.

More Tory government we didn't vote for is an awful prospect, but is Labour a credible alternative?

Perhaps, though, optimism is finally overcoming fear.

A Panelbase poll last week claimed 40% of Scots now say they will vote Yes, just 5% behind No voters. And 15% are still undecided. That made Bitter Together blink and the Tories and Labour and the Lib Dems have been falling out of bed to announce their devo bribes if Scotland votes No.

Where have they been hiding all these grand plans? If we're such a basket case, why bother offering them at all?

Or, cynic that I am, will their promises be quietly binned if we vote No?

What a Scotland own goal that would be.

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