You’d think it would be easy to say No.
All three main UK political parties at Westminster want Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom, or more correctly, to continue the Treaty of Union which began in 1707 to create the United Kingdom. They have unusually, forgotten their traditional opposition, and joined forces against Scottish Independence. They have the backing of almost all of the media, even those that are legally bound to be impartial. They also have a lot of money behind them. So – say no to scary change. So easy!
But No, they’ve so far managed to make it look very difficult to state their case clearly. In fact, they’ve made a real mess of almost everything they’ve touched. The No campaign seem to be unable to avoid lies, threats or being patronising. Here are just a few examples. I have not linked to sources, because I’m rather lazy, and I know you can use a search engine, dear reader –
- Dodgy dossiers and wobbly numbers from supposedly impartial government departments.
- The threat that a currency union will be blocked – whether the next UK government is Labour, Lib-Dem or Conservative.
- Accusing the democratically elected First Minister of being a dictator. Three times (So far).
- Using language in a formal print publication interview that directly compared Scottish nationalism with Nazi Germany, and then airbrushing it out of the on-line version, with journalists replacing the phrase ‘blood-and-soil’ with ‘inaudible mumble’.
- Briefing 28 foreign governments to oppose Scottish independence.
- Asking the President of the United States to intervene with a statement, in open breach of UN guidelines.
- Having to remove Lego pictures from a government web site illustrating a ‘dividend’ after the toymaker complained about their unauthorised use.
- Creating an astroturf ‘people’s campaign’ in Scotland that is shown to be founded by a millionaire, with headquarters in London, and has had repeated minute-by-minute donations to it of just under £7,500, allowing donors to remain anonymous.
- Publishing literature billed as offering ‘Facts’ and inserting this into newspapers using the newspapers’ own fonts and styling, but failing to make legally required publisher and printer information conspicuous and legible.
- Failing to publish publicly funded polls, stating that they are not in the national interest.
- Politicising D-day celebrations with offensive and partisan comments.
- Suggesting that Independence will stop progress towards finding a cure for cancer.
They just can’t seem to help themselves.
Every day brings a new instalment in ‘Project Fear’ – a drip, drip, drip of negative stories and scaremongering. No matter that the arguments are easily refuted as being untrue. The headlines have been printed, published and read, which is the whole point. Priming, conditioning, confirmation fallacy. History repeats itself, with the 1979 and 1997 campaigns to give power to Scotland similarly full of predictions of doom and threats of mass business exodus from those who supported the status quo.
Everyone is a reporter in 2014
But this is 2014. The people of Scotland are tired of being patronised, ignored, and lied to. And we don’t rely exclusively on mainstream TV and newspapers to form our opinions any more – we can listen to anyone who has a voice. We can talk to neighbours not just in our gardens or streets, but across time and space online. A tweet can travel around the world in milliseconds. And so truth and lies can move quickly – but the difference now is that everyone is a publisher. Everyone is an editor. Everyone is a reporter. Everyone is connected. And so truth tends to be uncovered, especially when someone tries to hide it. Bullshit is called out as such. Unfortunately, the poor and many elderly are largely excluded from this digital democracy, which gives the traditional mainstream media a great advantage in persuading these groups.
This campaign so far has shown that venal, mean-spirited, threatening behaviour is the norm from the ‘No’ side of what is supposed to be a union of equals. If it were truly a union, an equal partnership, shall we say, no side could threaten the other with the removal of something that the union shares in common.
My advice to the ‘No’ campaign
With 100 days to go before September 18th, 2014, this is my advice to the No campaign:
- Change your approach, and use quiet, reasoned argument, verified facts, treat source data fairly and without spin or selective editing. Be truthful. Be honest. Be proud of yourself, and uphold the sword of truth.
Actually, forget it. I’m wasting my time. It’s not going to happen. Here’s the realistic advice:
- Don’t change a thing. Keep on lying, and let’s have more threats and scare stories. This ongoing ineptitude will allow the cross-party and non-party Yes campaign to win.
The prize is a better country for the people of Scotland. And that’s only 100 days away.