The Better Together Campaign Crisis

George Osborne Underlines UK Government's Opposition To Currency Union

Ever helpful, Bella has enlisted Robin McAlpine to create some guidance notes for the beleaguered No campaign team.

Since today is national ‘explain what’s wrong with Better Together’ day I’ve already had a read at a broad range of explanations for why the No campaign is in trouble. These range from the carefully thought-through explanation of why a top-down campaign is no longer enough (Lesley Riddoch in the Scotsman) to the ‘he may well write entertainingly about parliamentary politics but he is embarrassingly miles outside his area of expertise when he tries to comment on political campaigningnonsense from Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph.

My professional background in political strategy draws me to campaigns of all sorts to see why they are or aren’t working and to wonder what I’d have done if it was me. The car crash which has been Better Together has transfixed me for quite a while now. There are a load of smaller and individual reasons why BT is misfiring badly but there are two main tactical mistakes which have been fundamental and two major areas where they lack the necessary capacity to run the campaign they need to run. But first some of the smaller bits and pieces.

From very early on it was obvious to me that BT had ‘amateur boxer syndrome’, the belief that if only you can throw enough punches fast enough you’ll get a knockout in the first round. The prime example was early on when BT made a relentless case about Scotland losing triple-A credit rating despite the fact that most informed people knew that the UK was at serious risk of losing its own. I told a journalist at the time that I’d hold that punch back just in case it left exposure. Not BT. It just swung away – and got a clock on the jaw for its trouble when the predictable happened. You never get a knock-out in the first round. You need to be more prudent in your offence.

BT was from early on convinced (to a degree I didn’t understand) of the strength of its top team. It not only seemed to think that its team was A-list, it repeatedly said it. Carmichael, Moore, Curran, Lamont, even Mundell; there was a real confidence that head-to-head this overwhelming quality would carry opinion. It wasn’t obvious where this confidence came from. The same is true in bucketloads with Alastair Darling. There is a class of Westminster political correspondent who thinks Darling is a real performer; this is predicated on an assumption that the wider public still fall for an authority figure. This latter point is known not to be true in any straightforward way (see Riddoch again) and even worse, it assumes that authority trumps empathy. Darling demonstrates no empathy. You can get away with that if you’re a technocratic Chancellor, not if you’re leading a campaign. The charisma is available (Kennedy, Galloway, Forsyth) but all far too dangerous to use. Leadership was always a problem.

This was overlooked because of an obsession with ‘reality creation’. This is the process beloved in the US of relentlessly telling people What Just Happened (or What’s About to Happen). With the benefit of the Scottish media echo-chamber we’ve had a year of Better Together explaining how and why certain things were happening and why even more of them were going to happen. The media uncritically printed ‘we’re going to set up lively and active groups of artists/young people/businesses/social campaigners who will give a positive case for the union and destroy the Yes campaign’.

Great. Where are they?

Better Together

Where are all the love-bombs, a barrage which up until now has been ten parts talk to one part action?

Where is that extensive ground campaign they announce every week? The nadir (and from my political strategy point of view one of the most damaging things BT has done to itself) is to refer to a ‘Dam Busters strategy’ around its pound/EU campaign. Credibility is essential to any campaign; if you say you’re going to ‘burst a dam’, you need to do it. Ain’t no damns burst anywhere I can see.

This isn’t a name for a strategy, it’s a name without a strategy. If you have a pliant media (which doesn’t know what’s happening on the ground anyway), for quite a while you can get away with describing the world as you wish it was and not as it is. The problem is that eventually reality catches up.

Which is another big problem; BT has been in crisis for months. It’s only survived this long because the media has thrown a ring of steel round the campaign, protecting it from normal political gravity. The best example of this is the Johann Lamont “the Scots aren’t genetically programmed to make political decisions” comment on the STV debate. I can’t think of many contexts in the democratic world where a politician could survive this comment, slip of the tongue or not. In the US a politician who said that about her electorate would be finished. Likewise, if the media hadn’t been so willing to promote the ‘cybernats are evil’ campaign and actually reported where the bile was coming from BT would have problems. In fact, so strong is this ring of steel that some journalists seem to have started their own campaign with Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph recently compiling his own personal list of who had expressed concerns over independence and published it in his paper as if he could somehow leaflet Scotland all by himself. But it never helps when no-one will tell you you’re losing because you fail to come properly to believe it. Hence BT just keeps putting out statements about polls not narrowing which aren’t true.

All of this (and much more) explains a large part of why BT is in crisis. But not the main, fundamental reasons. You can get away with all of the above if your fundamental strategy is right. The anti-AV campaign won comfortably with a top-down only campaign, UKIP exists purely because of their (and their media partners’) willingness to distort reality at will. The Yes campaign is winning this debate in large part without high-profile leaders (I go to town hall meetings where me and three other ‘no names’ are talking to 300 people in a small town).


So what is the fundamental problem?

It’s fairly simple; BT pursued a polarisation strategy while the Yes campaigns (they really should be pluralised) pursued a building strategy. BT assumed from the outset that, fundamentally, it had the numbers. It seems to have taken as an act of faith that No meant No and Undecided meant No. All they had to do was split Scotland down the middle, force all the Nos and Undecided-but-really-Nos to jump and the game was won. The possibility that large proportions of the early No vote was soft seems not to have been considered properly. The possibility that undecideds may be tending to Yes does not seem properly to have been considered. It is essential that you consider these things very carefully before you embark on a polarisation strategy because if you force people to jump (particularly if you do it and leave them 18 months to think about it) you have to be absolutely sure which way they’re going to jump.

And it’s not like the No campaign hasn’t had the opportunity to think this through. One of the most significant (and therefore most overlooked by the media) aspects of the campaign was the census outcome that showed two out of three Scots now describe themselves as ‘Scottish-only’. This is the most incredible ‘resource’ for the Yes campaign – if it can tap into that Scottish-only sentiment it is well positioned. Adding the hokey words ‘I’m a Scottish patriot but…’ before ‘JUMP NOW!’ is no substitute for knowing what you’re doing in the first place. The devo-max data also offered bountiful warning to the No campaign. They read lots of support for devo-max as indicating faith in the UK. I always read devo-max support (as opposed to ‘a wee bit more’) as an indicator of lack of faith in Westminster.

Indeed, in private papers I wrote early on I argued that I thought about that two-thirds of Scots wanted (possibly somewhere deep down) to believe that Scotland could be independent. I argued this had to be drawn out. Carefully. Shooting a gun and shouting ‘pick a side’ was a crazy way to go about things. The Yes campaign began with an inferiority complex and so wasn’t as confident to assume support. This helped a lot; Yes expected to have to argue and win people gradually where the No campaign thought there was a short-cut to victory. What I believe has happened is that the No campaign is working exactly as Better Together thought it would – people who deep down want to believe in No are pushed towards No and those who deep down want to believe in Yes are being pushed towards Yes.

It’s just that BT completely misjudged the numbers on either side.

Which leads to the second big strategic mistake; BT didn’t think it needed a plan for the post-scorched earth stage of the campaign. It believed so completely in the polarisation strategy that it exclusively adopted ‘villain mode’. It thought that, Thatcher-like, it could just march on through the wasteland it had created (where those on the wrong side of their polarisation might hate them but would be impotent anyway). So Thatcher was content to be hated in Scotland, Wales and the North of England because she had the numbers. When BT discovered that the wasteland they created for themselves was losing territory to the other side they and that they didn’t have the numbers, they suddenly had to ‘de-villainise’ themselves. This is very, very difficult. Think about an imaginary uncle who beats you soundly if you do certain things and is loving and affectionate if you do certain other things – but you don’t know which thing is which. It is disorientating and frankly petrifying. This is why almost all campaign theory tends to emphasise consistency of tone. If you’ve decided you’re going to be the Good Guy you need to find a way to do your dirty work without anyone noticing and if you’re going to be the Bad Guy you have to get over wanting to be loved. Love-you-hate-you-love-you-hate-you is disorientating – you don’t know whether you’re going to get a smack or a Werther’s Original. It becomes difficult to work out what you’re meant to take away. (Whatever you can say about the Yes campaign, you can’t fault it for consistency of tone, even if it’s been a wee bit ‘Christian Fellowship’ for my liking…)

BT has started swerving wildly between doom and love and most people perceive (correctly) that this is a sign that:

(a) the campaign doesn’t really know what it’s doing and

(b) it is willing to say today the opposite of what it will say tomorrow according to what it wants you to believe.

All campaigning is a confidence trick (you have to feel confident in the entity that is steering you towards a decision) and things that swerve wildly don’t engender confidence. And by far the biggest problem is that there is very little you can do about it – if you adopt one tone and later abandon it for another tone then that’s a U-turn but you can survive it if handled well. If you’ve been swinging between two opposing tones and then set of in any other direction at all that just becomes chaos.

Chaotic campaigns never win.

This might also be survivable if it wasn’t for the first of the lack of capacity problems. One of the obvious things BT could try would be to get off-air for a while. If they could ‘go dark’ for a little while and recalibrate their wild swerves in private they might conceivably be able to cobble together a plan. But that would require both of (a) a really serious ground campaign to keep things moving while off-air and (b) a lively support base doing serious work for them on social media and so on. Neither exist. BT can’t go ‘off air’ because as soon as they do they don’t exist. There is no-one writing, drawing, signing or talking about Britain with passion and joy, there just aren’t people turning up at pro-UK public meetings and not only because they barely exist. Despite all their instance to the contrary there is no grass-roots No campaign. Well, you don’t need one for a polarisation campaign.

But its the second of the capacity-failures that is the final nail in the BT coffin and the source of all their above problems; they don’t have a strong understanding of Scotland and the Scots. This is an elite campaign. Wealthy Tory journalist Alan Cochrane thinks privately-educated millionaire banker-buddy Alastair Darling should be put in sole control of the campaign to let him work his magic.

The possibility that neither of them have much feel for day-to-day life in normal Scotland hasn’t occurred to them. There is no balance in their campaign; it’s all being run by Westminster politicians and establishment types. There is very little local campaign capable of feeding back information such as ‘this isn’t going down well’ or ‘they might not all like Salmond but hatred of Osborne unites the nation’ and such like. In fact, their failure to understand the Scots is best seen in their real, genuine inability to understand why ‘Dam busters’ didn’t work. In a Westminster-shaped universe the campaign would be over by now; in Westminsterville big businesses warning that a given action is not to its pleasing is taken to be the end of the matter. Not in Scotland. This is also fundamentally why Labour is in electoral decline and the Tories languish in their marginal position – they’ve lost touch with Scottish feeling because much more Scottish feeling has a nationalist element than they are willing to accept. They just don’t believe that ‘two thirds are Scottish-only’ data and mistake liking Doctor Who for consent for Westminster. To demonstrate just how out of touch the campaign is, they seem to think that Gordon Brown is the authentic voice of Scotland and that he has his finger on the pulse in working-class communities.

A polarisation strategy that misunderstood public opinion, a manic and disjointed response when the polarisation didn’t work, a total lack of ground-level infrastructure to balance this and a host of other smaller problems have all come together. Actually, this all happened in January; it’s just taken the media two months to catch up.

What would I do if I was them? I genuinely don’t know. They need ground-level intelligence and I can’t see where they can develop it. They need empathy and I can’t see a source of it. They need to undo the polarisation strategy and that’s nearly impossible. They need to go back and undo some of the wolf-crying – or actually deliver all the plethora of stunts and support they said they were going to deliver. And they could probably do with coming up with a positive case for the union that isn’t an insult to the intelligence (‘a Britain which is stretching every fibre of it’s body to end poverty…’ – seriously?) There are some real problems here.

So much schadenfreude of course. Just one note of caution; this does not mean the Yes strategy is setting the heather on fire either. Frankly, while the SNP leadership has been competent in recent months it is hard to be much more generous than that. And it really is the local campaigns and groups like National Collective, Wings, Bella, Business for Scotland, Women for Indy, RIC and so on which are doing all the heavy lifting. Centrally the Yes campaign still seems to be going through the motions, claiming that each misstep from the other side retrospectively justifies a strategy of not doing anything much. Continually rewriting recent history to make it look like you’re good is no substitute for having a plan for the future. A campaign that is reliant on the other side making mistakes or rests on external variables (such as UKIP getting a good showing at the Euro elections) isn’t really a campaign at all.

If the Yes campaign starts to believe that what it has been doing is sufficient to win because the No campaign is weak, we’re all in trouble.

I can therefore only finish by offering one very strong warning to all in Yes circles:

Nobody ever wins by default. Nobody.

Comments (43)

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  1. andygm1 says:

    Excellent, insightful article Robin. The only area I would take issue with is this:

    “Frankly, while the SNP leadership has been competent in recent months it is hard to be much more generous than that. And it really is the local campaigns and groups like National Collective, Wings, Bella, Business for Scotland, Women for Indy, RIC and so on which are doing all the heavy lifting.”

    Surely this is the strategy, to engage with Labour voters whilst the SNP stay in the background?

    1. Wouldn’t really call it a strategy, after all it is an all-party/no-party campaign. The No camp like to conveniently forget this though.

  2. Steve MAlloy says:

    Excellent analysis and very important note of caution re complacency among the SNP government.

    1. Catrìona says:

      I think the warning about complacency extends to the Yes campaign(s) as a whole, rather than just the Government, and it’s something we need to be aware of.

  3. JGedd says:

    Excellent, informative analysis. I hope those ostensibly running the Yes campaign take note because they need to sharpen up their game. Now would be the time to be hammering the nail firmly into the BT coffin not waiting for them to helpfully dig their own grave and climb in. Your last sentence says it beautifully.

  4. Brian says:

    Insightful and intelligent another great piece.

  5. Alex Buchan says:

    That was the best analysis I’ve read so far. I agree with everything written here.

  6. Cliff Purvis says:

    Well said. Now go get it out there. Please.

  7. jrmacclure says:

    Good article but you need stronger editing.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      The editor is weak, and foolish, and the writer needs beaten and admonished

  8. yes.

    I think it’s interesting to note that basically everything you say about the No campaign is also true of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems across most of the UK. Postmodern hollowed out politics is a process of pre-announcing, announcing, and then post-analysing things without ever doing them…

    1. Indion says:

      Yup, that’s UKania; the Westminster realm of make believe to deceive and deliver empty promises so the show can carry on regardless, round after round, up or down, in or out via the revolving door roundabout of general elections.

      What ultimately is UKania for?

  9. Walte Masson says:

    The snp going on about the eu membership is not the way ta get the media ta vote yes , what jobs are we gan ta get out o europe none believe that blrthering idiot clegg and his thousandds of jobs, yer heed is mince, ,right enough trade is open everywhere , europe states asia etc,,,eu is only going ta drain us and get us inta debt rolling over every year , immigrants , are only here ta get out of our system of nhs and all freebies they can get , ta send hame what a independence scotland needs is get our fishing rights back ,that the torries gave away, this would create thousands of jobs in most trades lorries & vans, drivers, factorys, fish merchants. shops, harbours would become a thing of the past busy, start power turbines at sea ,we have the strongest tides round all our coasts and would start work in abundance ,cheaper electricity , and not long would supply every house in scotland no power cuts in extreme weather farming , distilleries, in fact name anything scotland has it , and that is not including oil ,but what the eu is very very good at is shelling oot millions ta usless mps nigel farage gets 3 million a year and we all know what the kinnocks have fleeced off the tax payers through the eu , and were not even members of this eu, all these idiots of pms have done over the years is plough billions inta this shite hole of europe and signed treatys given away parts of the so called union , and scotland should be very wary what we do if we get independence ,charity begins at home ???

  10. James Coleman says:

    All in all a good dissection of the NO campaign. But there are a few gaps in your reasoning.

    You say, “the charisma is available (Kennedy, Galloway, Forsyth)” Puleeeze! That statement shows that YOU are a bit short on understanding of Scottish politics. There is no way that any of those three stooges could ever run a successful NO campaign. All are completely discredited in Scotland along with Brown. George is an excellent orator but nowadays always attacking the wrong subject. Poor Kennedy could have been a contender …. And Forsyth? A disgrace to Scotland because of his earlier fervour for Thatcher’s destruction and his constant carping now from the Sleeping Chambers at Westminster.

    And I don’t know your age but the main reasons the business case for NO hasn’t had traction is that Scots have heard the same old, same old tanner from business before in 1979, 1997 and now. We know their claims about Independence and leaving are nonsense because they were lies then and they are lies now.

  11. Aikenheed says:

    A point you may have missed – there are no positive points to be made for the union – if there were surely we would have heard at least one by now?

  12. Robert Graham says:

    I realy enjoy reading some of the well informed comments on here I have been brought up to date and speed participating in the yes campaign so far by contributing to yes and wings over Scotland . I agree with a lot in your piece and with the to nice approach to this no hope lot ,get at them in amongst them my local labour MP really got it and will continue to get it after going through the lobby with the nasty party in the other nights vote shame on them . In my opinion we need to get real, point out what labour say and what labour do , really point out through bill boards ,leaflets etc what’s on the way after a no vote if scare is required then ok but something other that the nicely nice you listen to ordinary people and they really are believing this guff in the mainstream media it’s all very well the reasoned arguments on here and other sites it’s for people who are interested in the subject most people mostly over 50 ish couldn’t give a rats arse honestly I don’t know how to wake them up I have almost came to blows a few times recently trying to get through to long term labour always have and always will vote labour after years of brainwashing it’s hard work ha ha anyway we might be in danger of talking to ourselves because this and other sites are good for ideas they don’t beat even one edition of the daily record ,and I would like to thank the rev on wings over Scotland for the blinder he played with the ad in the Glasgow underground now that was a classic he made the no hope lot respond more traps like that are needed , make them respond then pick them off they can’t help it they are now using a scatter gun approach without any thought anyway just my tuppence worth agree or not

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      I think you are dead right. A win in this referendum is by no means guaranteed and the mainstream media does have a greater impact than any amount of Bella Caledonia articles, which is why the campaign on the ground is the thing that is going to make the most difference. However, the No campaign have alienated commentators in the press, people like Kevin McKanna, Ian Macwhirter, Ruth Wishart, Ian Bell and with most people reading papers on-line this is getting across.

      This referendum was always going to be a risky strategy because the stakes are so high. A no vote will be used by the London establishment to try to recreate the devolution set up in their favour. But I never expected Scotland to show the kind of belief in itself that is expressed now in the comments to virtually every on-line referendum related comment piece. So whatever the result in September we have to build on what we have achieved.

      For me a no vote wouldn’t be the end of the fight but rather the beginning. The only thing that could undermine us would be if the SNP came to an accommodation with the British state and became a devolutionary party. A year or so back I noticed journalists suggesting some at the top of the SNP suggesting this as a way forward, we need to make sure the fight doesn’t end in September.

      1. Robert Graham says:

        agreed this is not going back in its box and be told to keep quiet now ! and its maybe the sheer frustration of only so many outlets available to give the true and opposing opinion on the referendum and as for that halfwit carmichael saying its not fair the yes campaign has a great big war chest oh didums maybe we should start giving the no hope lot a leg up i mean its only fair now isn’t it ha ha aye right ha ha

  13. Excellent!

    The bit about swinging from one extreme to the other and confusing people/putting people off reminded me of when I worked in the beer industry.

    A certain Premium Lager ran a very successful TV & BTL campaign called ‘reassuringly expensive’ which helped see its sales climb in the ‘On-Trade’ especially in those bars where being seen to drink the ‘right thing’ was diregeur; soon it became accepted that this product was a little bit more expensive. Very good campaign: a success!

    However, as the ‘On-Trade’ was a declning market more and more focus became attached to the ‘Off-Trade’, especially as alcohol sales in major supermarkets took off; a very price competitive market.

    Unfortunately, your average pub goer whilst happy to pay for a ‘reassuringly expensive’ product on a weekend started seeing the same £2.50 a pint product being punted in the local supermarket at 50p a can. “Why am I paying a premium price (even given all the ‘benefits’ of a bar/pub) in my local when I can get 4 or 5 cans for the same price?”

    Result: consumer confusion and On-Trade sales that started to fall until price parity/advertising strategy was changed.

    As you say, it is hard to see exactly how BT can change strategy (Good guy/Bad guy) without going to ground for a while especially with a mainstream media frantically spinning any story it can into headline news.

  14. grumpydubai says:

    This is not an April Fool.

    Being based abroad, I have not been able to follow the official part of the Yes Campaign and was surprised to read there is one.

    I thought the campaign was being led (very well) by the Scottish people and the SNP/Government were ‘keeping their powder dry’

    I certainly think our ‘big guns’ are right to do so and not continuously argue the rubbish peddled by the Unionists/Fearties.

    Hopefully the tactc will be to have a more public profile in the last 3-4 months, to convince the Don’t knows and soft NOs.

    However, I leave all you who know what is happening at the heart of things on the ground, to ensure a resounding YES is achieved.

  15. Muscleguy says:

    I know what you mean about the Yes campaign being a bit ‘Christian Fellowship’ but that is necessary. This is in large part about belief, as you say it is about tapping into the 2/3 who deep down are Scottish first. Young Saffron’s Generation Yes are all about belief, sure they have the arguments off pat, but that is just holy writ really. I was a debater in my youth too and thought I understood arguments then. But the point is Generation Yes will march towards the sound of gunfire singing songs as they go and a campaign that will heat up over the summer needs that.

    I also agree that the SNP have sat back a bit (but Nicola Sturgeon has been doing sterling work in town hall meetings) because they need to win over the Alex Salmond haters. That was why in the latest Party Political on the TV with wee Kirsty you only hear Alex in voiceover. He’s a bit of a marmite politician and knows it. I also expect they are keeping their powder dry for a later push. Alex chose this 2 year campaign and I expect he has it all planned out (pace quotes about plans not surviving first contact with the enemy).

    And finally, another military quote from a man with a Marshall called MacDonald:

    Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

    BT have been making mistake after mistake and by and large the SNP have simply let them.

    1. Good article Robin, and exactly Muscleguy. Napoleon Bonaparte, yes?

  16. excellent article, very very interesting. If I might be picky, Mr Darling is not a miliionaire banker , he’s a lawyer.

  17. GB says:

    If you agree with this article and you work for Barrhead Travel, don’t feel obliged to leave your name!

  18. Dave Coull says:

    Regarding “nobody ever wins by default” – it should be pointed out that some groups, such as the Radical Independence Campaign, for example, are making the effort to reach out to the very large numbers of folk who don’t usually vote in elections. So far as the SNP are concerned, I don’t think they are fully engaged in the campaign. There is a European election in May. Not important to most folk, including me, but,so far as political parties are concerned, they will have one eye on that. AFTER May, you will see fuller engagement from political parties.

  19. JBS says:

    Perhaps someone could answer the following questions for me. As far as I know, if Scotland becomes independent then the Queen will remain as Head of State, ie Queen Elizabeth will still be Queen of Scotland. If an independent Scotland is to be prevented from using the pound, does that mean that the image of the Queen’s head will have to be removed from all post-independence coins minted by the Royal Mint in London? What would happen to the coins currently in circulation?

  20. madjockmcmad says:

    Brendan Brogan in today’s Telegraph is sounding out a warning to the English electorate that it is not just Scotland which will ‘lose out’ on independence but they will be ‘screwed too’ – according to the author.

    That Mr Brogan considers Alan Cochrane’s ‘crie de couer’ in yesterday’s Telegraph as ‘stirring’ shows just out of touch the London media types are, how unaware they are that Cochrane and his wife have rapidly become items for satire in Scotland.

    For what it is worth I suggest the ‘Yes Campaign’ has achieved what it needed to achieve from a zero base – create a canvassing army across Scotland, supplying folk with no canvassing knowledge or skill with the templates and information they require to be effective. Further these local campaigns have attracted local MSPs and celebrities to come and speak at local meetings for or against the idea of Scottish independence. Scots like to speak to ‘thir ane fowk’. Now BT are starting to avoid such debates because of the further damage they do to their campaign, is painfully obvious, in ‘no shows’ and late withdrawals from engagements. the latest at St Mungo’s Academy.

    The Yes campaign’s’ greatest weakness is it diffuse nature, yet this is also its strength BT have to face multiple targets with one fixed message. The Yes campaign’s greatest power is it has a shared desire within all its diverse elements – to create a better Scotland whether you are in the Tory leaning ‘Business for Scotland’ or the SSP. The understanding between what should be these two opposing groups is the argument over ‘how to make Scotland better’ can not happen until after a ‘Yes’ vote. In military circles this is known as having a common purpose on the aim of a campaign, having all your ducks lined up, differences are buried until the aim is achieved and it is very hard to do

    This is also something lacking in BT – the only thing they have in common is hatred of Alex Salmond and the SNP – as for their common aim, it has never been made clear to the Scottish electorate, so is it any surprise they regularly take big lumps out of each other rather than the ‘Yes campaign’. In fact they have gone to some lengths to establish they all have different aims, depending on who gets elected in 2015 – in terms of future policy they wave jars of ‘jam tomorrow’.

    I do not know of any ‘Yes’ activist who is thinking of taking it easy over the last months up to September.

    Smugness is another BT trait we are actively avoiding.

  21. Thomas William Dunlop says:

    Great article. It boils down to BT being out of touch and out of time.

    I have had a feeling for sometime there has been this “bunker in Berlin” style of pronouncements fromBT spokepersons. One has to look at any of their groups to see each of them has the same “handlers” again and again. I just really wonder if they are just ghost divisions, put out there for show.

    That is of course no reason why the grass root yes campaign should not let up. We should make the margin as great as possible to ward of “technical” annulments of the vote.

  22. epicyclo says:

    “Frankly, while the SNP leadership has been competent in recent months it is hard to be much more generous than that. And it really is the local campaigns and groups like National Collective, Wings, Bella, Business for Scotland, Women for Indy, RIC and so on which are doing all the heavy lifting. ”

    And that is how it should be,

    This is not politics, it’s a fight for democracy, and if it isn’t coming from the bottom up, the people, it’s not going to work.

  23. Crikey Robin, that’s like a lap of honour before the YES Campaign even get over the winning line. Thank god we have political strategists like you to write political analysis with the benefit of hindsight. Bravo.

  24. Elaine Black says:

    The older, newspaper reading, BBC watching electorate will vote No out of fear of change. Together with labour stalwarts, they may well be the largest group. Already decided and invisible – they won’t attend meetings, or appear on-line. The truth is, no poll in the world will be able to predict the result because we just don’t know the size of this section of the population. On-line, however, the No side has lost the intellectual debate and a younger electorate, internet savvy and optimistic, will not only vote Yes but has been politicised, perhaps for the first time in my life-time. This group will continue to expand and grow as its members move into all areas of Scottish society. Whatever the result on September 18, they are the future. The union has been fatally wounded by its own proponents – it is now only a matter of time.

    1. “The older, newspaper reading, BBC watching electorate will vote No out of fear of change.”

      While this may be true, many of us who comment on indy sites are of a generation that have campaigned for independence since before the 1979 referendum, and are still working for that. So sweeping statements such as this are frustrating. Many of us are also quite computer and internet savvy so have not bought or read newspapers for many years,but have avidly read a wider selection of news material online.

      As for not wanting change, that’s exactly what we have been working for all these years.

  25. Elaine Black says:

    Jingsandthings – I am one of you!! What is going to be fascinating, though, is how many of us there are in 2014 (not 1979)……BT are gambling it is still a minority. Why else would they make the blindingly obvious mistake of ignoring the impact of the internet on this referendum.

    1. More than the older generation, it’s the small business owners I’m concerned about — people you might expect to be proactive in digging out the facts as the outcome of the referendum concerns them. And even more than that, I’m concerned about women who run small businesses as my impression is they have their heads firmly in the no bedrock. These are people who want to retain the status quo as their hard work has landed them in a comfortable situation, which understandably they don’t want anything to jeopardise. Sadly, they are not only unaware of the facts, they are also unaware of the potential for business expansions after independence.

      In an effort to attract what appears to be a reluctant female yes vote, I emailed Business for Scotland to ask if they had plans for events that targeted these people. They will not attend BfS events as presently run, but I wondered if they might attend events promoting the possibilities for them as women business people in an independent Scotland. So far I’ve had no reply, but guess they are extremely busy.

      The internet has opened up a whole new world that our current crop of unionist MPs seem unable to understand. No longer can they spout lies and half truths unchallenged, yet they still haven’t cottoned on to this, and when caught out all they can do is slag off the yes people. Doesn’t make for constructive debate.

      1. Elaine Black says:

        You are right – if anything these No’s will be very soft indeed. It should be Bfs next priority with mail shots and a charismatic businesswoman at its helm. Some creative stuff has been going on with MSPs meeting people in cafes etc. It is not stereotyping too much, I hope, but perhaps shorter, informal lunchtime meetings in local cafes that don’t eat into evenings for busy women are more attractive than large halls full of men in suits.

        1. Absolutely. Instead of beer and sandwiches, coffee, salad and chat. Didn’t know about the MSP initiative, but that sounds promising. I think a small group of women chatting over coffee will be more productive than a full-blown meeting. I hope BfS take up an approach along these lines as women are the weak spot and need to be brought fully onboard. A chat could be followed up with emailed literature.

          As women are seen to be more cautious and more concerned about the welfare of their families, perhaps an approach centred round opportunities for themselves as women and their families (education, jobs, caring for elderly parents, opportunities for SMEs in an independent Scotland) might be the way to go, helping minimise the scariness of what they see as the unknown.

  26. Doug Daniel says:

    Pretty much agree with every word of this article.

    You’re so right about the No campaign thinking they could just split the electorate and waltz to a win. They believed their own hype. When they say things like “less than a third of Scots support independence”, that’s not them just trash-talking, they genuinely believe it. You could see it in the way they – and the media – framed early polls where anyone who wasn’t a Yes was classed as a No. “30% support a Yes vote, so that must mean 70% support a No vote” was how they thought. After all, the union is “normal”, so most people must support normality – and you can still see unionists referring to a No vote as “normality” today. This is presumably the reason for them throwing away the only trump card they had that would almost certainly have defeated the Yes campaign(s) – the “Devo Max” middle option that would have given unsure or reluctant Yes voters an easy get-out from properly confronting the issue at hand: is Scotland better governing itself or leaving decisions at Westminster?

    I’ve also always thought that the majority of Scots would like to think Scotland could be independent, it’s just that they have been convinced that we can’t be. They’re not voting No out of love for the union, they’re voting No because they don’t think we can do it. But once that type of voter has their eyes opened up to the fact that we can be independent, then it doesn’t take much for them to switch sides. Essentially, many people are currently answering the question “could Scotland be independent?” rather than “should Scotland be independent?”

    This is why you have to work out if the person you’re speaking to is seeking answers or excuses. Someone seeking answers will eventually stop asking questions once you’ve satisfied their curiosity. Those looking for excuses will always find another question to ask. “Oh, well what about this? And this? And this?” The reluctant No voters have genuine questions. The confirmed No voters merely seek to trip us up and waste our time.

    BT’s main problem has been a lack of honesty. Arguably, they had no choice – if it’s true that most Scots do think Scotland should be independent as long as we can afford it, then a campaign to save the union really had no choice but to try and keep the truth away from people. But that was always doomed to fail in a two and a half year campaign. They clearly had an inkling about that, hence why they were so keen for the referendum to be held as soon as possible (although I dare say some simply wanted it over and done with because they think it’s an irrelevance).

    We can’t be complacent – I was talking to a No voter last night who was determined to believe that Scotland would need to raise taxes to be independent, even though he claimed to like some of the ideas in the White Paper, and just would not believe that Scotland already pays its way – but I do think that as the date with destiny draws closer, people will stop obsessing over things which are essentially election issues, and realise that this is about more than whether Scotland would put taxes up or down or whatever. At the moment, people are still looking for 100% assurance before moving to Yes, but people will eventually realise that they have to make a decision either way. And as the esteemed Derek Bateman has said, there will be a statistically-significant “Fuck It Factor” vote.

  27. Steven Grubb says:

    “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
    But the days grow short when you reach September
    When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
    One hasn’t got time for the waiting game” – Kurt Weill

    “Do you remember the 21st night of September?
    Love was changing the mind of pretenders
    While chasing the clouds away” – Earth Wind and Fire

    Get these tunes on the jukebox in heavy rotation. ; )

    1. Neil Anderson says:

      Steven Grubb – if you can find Weill’s September Song on any jukebox in the land, I’ll buy you beer till closing time in that hostelry!!

      1. Dave Coull says:

        When I was a young laddie back in the late 1940s or it micht hae been the very early 1950s, my big brother Bert had a 78 of the Stan Kenton Orchestra playing, and singing, September Song. Good version. It’s probably on You Tube.

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