There was a blow to both the Yes and the No campaigns yesterday when a new poll found that the most popular figure in the debate was Professor John Curtice.
A poll by SCWS* revealed that 90 per cent of respondents thought the professor was the most believable spokesman in all the coverage of the referendum. “He is streets ahead of everyone else in terms of popularity. He has knowledge, gravitas and charm according to the voters which they say is totally lacking from both the For and Against campaign figures,” said a spokesman.
In fact, deeper analysis reveals that most voters think Professor Curtice is the First Minister. A third think he should be and more respondents recognised him than could identify Willie Rennie by a factor of 10 to one.
He is the most important figure in the debate and now appears in 85 per cent of all political programmes in the UK and writes in 95 per cent of newspapers.
Experts believe the large number of Don’t Knows is the result of many thousands of Scots waiting for him to tell them how to vote.
But some commentators think this is a worrying trend as it places too much power in the hands of one individual. The SCWS spokesman said: “The awkward truth is that if at the last minute before voting Professor Curtice suddenly declares he will vote Yes, the result is in the bag for Mr Salmond.”
The professor said: “There is polling evidence that I am the most popular political scientist but you have to remember that in online polls without sociological filters that quartile disappears and the British Social Attitudes survey demonstrates clearly that my recognition factor declines sharply during the summer holidays. In truth there is little to be proud of in being more popular than Alistair Darling.”
John Curtice has risen from near obscurity at Strathclyde University to head a global organisation based at his state-of-the-art office at the top of the Science Tower beside the River Clyde. He has the only key to the lift that many Scots believed was defunct. From there can see most of Scotland laid out before him.
He has so many media outlets that he has taken over Studio C at the nearby Pacific Quay headquarters of BBC Scotland. As a result the BBC has had to move the production of Nina and the Neurons to another studio.
“He has clocks along one wall with time zones in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Washington, London and Bellshill where his sampling centre is based,” said a BBC insider. He is now the dominant figure in Scottish broadcasting. Kenny McQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland has been seen leaving studio C with an empty tray. “The professor gets anything he wants.”
BBC Scotland plans an extended season of Professor Curtice programmes including John Curtice’s Civilisation, Curtice Interviews….Stephen Hawking and Children in Need with John Curtice.
*Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society