Robert Young of the University of Western Ontario, an expert on secession movements, reckons that Mr Salmond needs to increase the emotional pull of independence. He is good with symbolic dates. Next year’s referendum is 700 years on from the battle of Bannockburn, a famed victory over the English by Robert the Bruce. The planned date of independence—March 24th 2016—coincides with the anniversaries of the 1603 Union of the Crowns and the 1707 Act of Union.
Yet next year also brings a British heartstring-tugger: the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war. Glasgow Cathedral will host the main church service. Oddly, says John Curtice, a psephologist, surveys show that support for independence does not grow much as the strength of Scottish identity intensifies. But opposition rises sharply as the sense of Britishness increases: independence, after all, means the end of Britain.