How do you win the war when the leader is so unappealing? That’s the dilemma on the SNP’s hands right now, with rumours of a Sturgeon coup in the works after September 18th.
Salmond simply isn’t a charmer, women don’t like him and don’t trust him. And that’s a fact. In the newly released Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, only 27% of women were in favour of independence, compared to 39% of men, the largest gender gap ever recorded in the survey and double the difference in recent years. When the precise question to be used in the referendum was put to them, only 20% of women said they would vote Yes.
Some critics have claimed his arrogance, aggressiveness, and bullying tactics are alienating this vital group. “I think he is very pompous,” says Jackie Townsend. “He doesn’t seem to be able to listen when someone answers back; he’s already made his mind up.”
Women’s aversion to independence is mostly down to their dislike of uncertainty. They’re nervous about such a drastic break with the status quo and they tend to be more cautious and risk-averse. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more supportive of the union per se, just they need clear-cut answers to the important questions rather than waffle and a utopian wish-list.
“The sustained efforts to woo female voters hasn’t worked,” says David Torrance, author of Salmond: Against the Odds. “The end result is that women who were suspicious of Salmond have remained suspicious of Salmond.”
“Women are more likely to feel uncertain about the consequences of independence and voters – regardless of whether they’re men or women – are less likely to vote for independence if they feel uncertain about the consequences,” says John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde.
“Women are concerned about their own future and their family’s future, and Alex Salmond and the SNP haven’t given them any of the answers they need,” says shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran. “Alex Salmond is playing fast and loose with Scotland’s economy and we know it.
The difficulty persuading women to support his cause is crucial with less than a month to go until the vote because women are much more likely than men to be in the undecided camp.
The two sides have dedicated groups to woo the female vote – Women for Independence for the Yes camp and Better Together Women for the No camp.
Salmond is very much a closed book regarding his private life and for some people that can be a good thing because over-exposure is embarrassing. But there needs to be a happy medium between the two. The result of Salmond’s extreme privacy issues is that the many people feel they don’t really know him and can’t relate to him. And taken further, it also leaves some people suspicious of him, as if he’s guarding his privacy because he has something unsavoury to hide.