100 day wake up call
100 day wake up call

A lot can happen in the next 100 days. We could have a long, hot, dry summer – a 20 per cent chance, according to the Met Office. We could have a decent, attacking, clean game of football at the World Cup. Andy Murray could win Wimbledon again. The Commonwealth Games could go without a hitch. The Edinburgh Festival could come and go without a grumble from the citizens. And Scotland could become an independent country. We live in exciting and improbable times.

The “Yes” and “No” camps have been making much of the Napoleonic 100 day countdown. Both staged major events on Monday to mark the start, the yes-campaigners in Edinburgh, the no-campaigners in Glasgow. Nicola Sturgeon brought together her female cabinet colleagues to make the case for independence to women voters, who up to now, have been more reluctant than men to make up their minds.

Meanwhile at a rally in Glasgow, Alistair Darling, the leader of the No campaign, hinted at a cross-party agreement on more powers for the Scottish Parliament, even if the voters reject outright independence. “ All three unionist parties have come up with proposals,” he said, “and they are not that very different actually.”

The stage-managed events were followed later in the week by rows over pensions, air-passenger duty, shipbuilding and the increasing bitterness of the cyber-war going on between the two sides. It’s all come to a head with the opposition parties calling on Alex Salmond to sack one of his spin doctors, Campbell Gunn, who is accused of encouraging the so-called Cyber-Nats.

The Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is the latest celebrity to enter the fray. She’s donated £1m to the No campaign. It goes some way to balancing the Yes side’s big donors, lottery millionaires Colin and Chris Weir, who have given £2.5m. For the record, the latest BBC poll tracker puts support for independence at 34 per cent, with 46 per cent against and 20 per cent undecided.

Both sides have been asking voters to consider what kind of Scotland they want to live in. This week we had a few indicators of the state we’re in. Unemployment is down to 6.6 per cent, with a record number of women in work. Greenhouse gas emissions are still going up. House prices are starting to recover from the recession – in Edinburgh, the famous “offers over” tradition has returned. And gang violence in Glasgow is said to be down by a third as a result of a three-year project targeting the drug and alcohol problems faced by gang members. It was heartening too to see pictures of a midnight march by 4,000 people “to reclaim the streets” of Glasgow after a series of sexual assaults in the city.

Glasgow is obviously trying to clean up its reputation ahead of the Commonwealth Games in July. The Queen’s baton arrives in Edinburgh this weekend at the start of a 40-day tour of Scotland before the games begin. It’s come just as news breaks of the games running out of money. They’ve already cost £563m and apparently the contingency fund of £46m has now been spent. There are fears the bank of Alex Salmond will have to step in if anything unforeseen should happen.

And speaking of government subsidies, the agriculture secretary Richard Lochhead has announced how the £500m annual subsidy to Scotland’s farmers will be divided under the new European Agriculture Policy. From next year, only active farmers will get direct farm payments, no retired or so-called “slipper” farmers will be eligible and no sporting estates. New entrant farmers will be eligible for the first time. There will also be a cap of £400,000.

The payment system is to be divided in to three regions, with special help for sheep farmers. There will also be a £45m fund to help beef farmers adjust to the new system.

All this comes as the Scotland’s farming community gathers for The Royal Highland Show next week at Ingliston. And as a sign of how agriculture is changing there will be more emphasis than ever on food quality and countryside activities. A new food charter is to be launched, there will be birds-of-prey demonstrations, bagpipe-making, a bush craft course, a medieval village and entertainment ranging from BMX stunt cycling to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. And did I mention the 5,000 animals on show and the 160,000 visitors expected ?

We begin these last 100 days in style.