Here's an extract from today's Scotsman column – you can read the rest by joining the free 30 day trial of the Scotsman App (click through from the website www.scotsman.com)….or buy the paper!!
So Scottish independence will be won or lost by the female vote. What a powerful position for women in this macho little country. The delicious irony was revealed (Scotland on Sunday 12.2.12) in a Strathclyde University survey of SNP members which suggests the average supporter is male and 60 – not a youthful, anti-Trident teenager as we've come to believe. The survey was conducted 5 years ago and the method of postal response may simply favour the older and more traditional type of correspondent. But the message isn't telling the SNP anything they don't already know. Female voters are more dubious about independence. Why should that be? Are risk-averse women predisposed towards the status quo? Are worldly-wise women sceptical about claims that better lives will be delivered by any new set of power-brokers? Are fist-banging men too prominent in the SNP? Of course, women are a diverse bunch. But we have some common defaults. Women are generally dubious about men with an overriding sense of mission or a throbbing vein on the forehead when they speak. Toughing out controversy and appearing to spoil for a fight may earn respect from male commentators and small armies of cyber-angry, anonymous men. Clever dick answers, snide-sounding put downs and swaggering arrogance turn off watching women as swiftly as they appear to engage watching men. And that's not an accusation solely directed at Alex Confidence Salmond himself. So can the SNP attract female voters without endangering their core 60-something, male support? Yes – and it's a change that must also involve broadcasters. The focus of debate needs to shift away from personal rammies and fisticuffs over constitutional minutiae towards the big life issues that plague all Scots. After appearing on the BBC TV's Burns Night Referendum Debate the single biggest subject of correspondence on email, twitter and facebook was my mention of the shameful evidence that some Scottish babies are genetically damaged by poverty before they are even born. Later at my hairdressers the pre-determined fate of Scotland's poorest babies was also the only point of interest that emerged from the previous night's hour-long debate. All those clever, clever challenges about timing, powers and devo-max were dismissed as mere theatrics. And these women were right. If nationalists can't demonstrate how independence can tackle child poverty, there's no point bothering. But equally, unionists need to demonstrate how another decade of devolution will reverse Scotland's near epidemic of self-harming behaviour. At the moment, the cart is before the horse – party leaders are debating constitutional solutions before publicly analysing the origins of Scotland's deep-seated health, social and confidence problems or the underlying reasons for optimism about Scotland's abundant resources in energy, people, landscape and culture. The destructive wrought by inequality will not stop itself. Resources that have remained largely untapped for generations will not develop themselves. But somehow the chaps that run parliaments and the media (north and south of the border) have no confidence that such big and basic issues will captivate viewers and listeners or produce more than worthy platitudes from politicians. It's a classic and dangerous Catch 22. Every minute constitutional nit-picking and ego-ridden banter are allowed to pass for truly Great Debate, voter confidence is further eroded.