And Eck was cast into a furnace of fire: there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. To Britain’s journalists there was no question, Darling bested Salmond. To many Yes activists it felt the same. During a gruelling a two-year campaign, we’ve been called everything from “a virus” to Nazis. The endless attacks in the press have left us bruised, battered, and angry.

At last, we imagined, a chance to see our man, champion of so many a First Minister’s Question Time, finally sock it to them. In the run-in to the first debate, most Yes campaigners seemed to expect Salmond to wipe the floor with Darling. They anticipated a bloodbath, a humiliation, a ritual killing of the enemy that would relieve them of the oppressive weight of elite opprobrium.

It didn’t happen, of course. Salmond was conversational, not confrontational. He was badly caught out on currency, perhaps not realising that most Scots don’t know what the Bank of England actually does. His argument was correct, but little-understood. The entire press corps piled onto his weak point.

The debate itself was a score-draw. Remember the part where Alistair Darling couldn’t say the words “Scotland could be a successful independent country”, even when asked twenty times? Remember the derisive laughter from the audience when Darling claimed that the UK redistributes money from rich areas to poor areas?

The news coverage had the precision of a military Psy Op. Immediately after the debate, we were shown the clip of Salmond being barracked about currency. Then a panel of “five undecided voters” were shown talking about currency. Then the evening news began, reporting as its top story that Salmond couldn’t answer about currency. These moments were vital for memory formation. The next morning, every front page screamed that Salmond had no ‘Plan B’. By the following lunchtime, it required a massive conscious effort to remember that any other topic had been discussed.

Salmond will not be allowed to “win” the next debate either, no matter what he does or says. No-one can stop Darling from repeating an unanswerable question or disingenuous scare story again and again, and as long as he has done that, our obsequious press will make it the only event of the evening.

I cannot emphasise this strongly enough: the Yes campaign will not be allowed any wins in the press at any point in the whole campaign. Get used to it. Steel yourself for it.

That simple fact is why the SNP have adopted a very unusual strategy. I call it “Eckenaccio”.

The last time Walter Smith was manager of Rangers, he knew he didn’t have a world-beating team. So he adopted a hyper-defensive strategy in Europe, playing five centre-backs and a holding midfielder. Rangers would, agonisingly, spend the whole game defending, then win with a single goal right before the end. The strategy took them all the way to the UEFA Cup Final. Lionel Messi claimed it was “anti-football”, but sports journalists dubbed it “Waltanaccio”, after Catenaccio (“door-bolt”), a famous Italian defensive strategy.

Salmond’s Eckenaccio is a similar trick. Historically around 33% of Scots support independence. Over the last two years, we have made nary an attack – that has been left to the No campaign. They have attacked, and attacked, and attacked, and now support for independence is around 40% to 45%. Like Walter Smith’s Rangers team, we have soaked up the pressure, and only now, late in the game, are we even beginning our counteroffensive.

This hyper-defensive strategy has been horrible to take part in. All the focus has been on minimising the space given to our opponents – we’ll keep the pound, we’ll stay in NATO, we’ll keep the Queen. We’ve weathered the No campaign’s increasingly frenzied blows without reply.

A traditional strategy could never have worked in this media environment. We will not be allowed to win any arguments, or any debates. I’ve seen one high-quality SNP press release after another generate scant coverage. Any attempt to launch our offensives early would end in total defeat.

Instead, Eckenaccio allows the enemy to commit to a weak argument, to become arrogant and make mistakes. They have done exactly that over currency – they are in the jaws of a trap. When the Scottish people realise that the unionist currency claim amounts to “Scotland doesn’t own a share of anything,  England owns everything,” they will be outraged. The third most important task for the Yes campaign in the coming weeks is to close that trap.

The second most important task is to continually deliver our positive message. The Eckenaccio formula, honed over two elections, is designed to smuggle key messages through a hostile media. In a debate? Ignore it, deliver the message. Jackie Bird is literally hissing at you? Ignore it, deliver the message. Half the country has just started paying attention. They will only see us on TV a few times, so they’d better hear us speaking about what we intend to do for the country. As many as one in four voters will make up their minds in the last two weeks, and many of them only in the ballot box itself.

The final, and most important task is to turn out our vote. Forget polls and percentages – if 1.6 million people turn up to vote Yes, we win. We will have 1 million signatures on the Yes declaration, and an untold mountain of canvassing data. For the last week, the huge ground campaign will dedicate itself solely to making sure those people vote. If they vote, we’ll win.

Eckenaccio is gruelling, horrible, agonising, but it is the only strategy with a hope of beating the might of the British state. In a very real sense the campaign has only just begun. Hold to your stations, hold to your duties, and hold your nerve. We’re going to win this.

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  1. Big Jock says:

    If this doesn’t inspire people I don’t know what will. Excellent and accurate analysis of the way to win.

    1. marylockhart says:

      Brilliant. Yes!

  2. Steve Bowers 74% win says:

    Fantastic, just fantastic, one conversation at a time, one convert each, we ARE going to win.

  3. tammcgarvey says:

    I thought Darling squirmed a fair bit when Sally Magnusson chinned him to tell us what he would suggest for the currency if we get independence. He didn’t have a plan A never mind a plan B.
    Eckenaccio idea sounds interesting, as long as we dont miss an open goal at the other end.

  4. JBS says:

    Got my polling card today. Pride of place on mantleshelf.

    Vote Yes to Scottish independence and send the Westmonsters back to their dank, grungy caves in the earth.

  5. Dan Huil says:


  6. This was meant to be a secret,until the 19th of September.I just hope none of the opposition see this.

  7. smiling vulture says:

    brilliant,99.9% media against,slowly but surely does it

  8. Alistair says:

    I hope and pray You are right. We also need to overcome a fair degree of cognitive dissonance on the part of many No voters. Harder said than done (ever tried to argue with a creationist?).

    Scotland putting up a good fight, ending in glorious defeat, is the story of our nation. Once in a while though, cometh the hour…….

    1. Moira says:

      Remember Bannockburn??

  9. Juteman says:

    If you poll a sample that has 60% No voters, you will get the result you want.
    Gunboats can’t be sent up the Clyde in the digital age, but this is still a war against the British State.

  10. Juan P says:

    I like the analogy. Very apt.

    Forza Scotland!!!

  11. Dave Coull says:

    As I have always seen it, the real campaign doesn’t involve Leaders, and it doesn’t happen in television studios. As that was my opinion, I didn’t have high expectations of the TV debate. And I knew the mass media were bound to say it looked good for Darling whatever happened. Having said that, I thought Salmond played it pretty cool. He allowed the shouty, aggressive, finger-jabbing Darling to emerge before the eyes of startled viewers. Less than five weeks now, three weeks until the first postal votes get cast. Still a lot of work to be done. But then, we always knew there would be a lot of work to be done in these final weeks. So it’s just as expected. I have always said that the result will be a decisive win for YES. I see no reason to change that prediction.

  12. Juteman says:

    Beware concern trolls preaching glorious defeat. They will try to get folk discussing what happens next after a No vote to try and kill Yes momentum. The British State is an expert at Psyops.

    1. Alistair says:

      Ok, you’re paranoid. But are you paranoid enough?

    2. Jennifer says:

      perception management is a strategy by Psyops and is a deliberate attempt to influence public opinion and policy resulting in the perceiver finding it difficult to form an accurate perception

  13. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “Eckenaccio is gruelling, horrible, agonising, but it is the only strategy with a hope of beating the might of the British state. In a very real sense the campaign has only just begun. Hold to your stations, hold to your duties, and hold your nerve. We’re going to win this.”

  14. yes is best says:

    From Auld Acquaintance: “The sell by date for the union is 17th September 2014….Do not buy after this date, as you never know what nasty virus you will catch from it.

    18th September 2014, sees the launch of a brand new updated product, iScotland,this promises to revolutionise you lives over time, and is much improved from what we currently have on offer.

    Beware fake imposters being offered by Britain PLC though, Devo Whatsits name is highly dubious in content, and previous fake offers by this bunch of cowboys, like their infamous JamTomorrow have proven to be utterly worthless, expect any other upgrade on this to be potentially even more harmful to your health and well being.

    Say YES on September 18th, and we wont look back…onwards and upwards we go.”

  15. Doug Daniel says:

    I hope you’re right Alistair. It’s certainly convincing, but I’ve seen so many folk make claims that last Tuesday was all about laying a trap for the No campaign, and a lot of them sounded more like attempts to explain away a rare poor performance from Eck, rather than just admitting that he’s no more immune to errors than the rest of us.

    But this does sound convincing. And I’ve been saying since the start that Yes would be playing the rope-a-dope strategy, so it’s kind of the same thing, except I was expecting the “knock-out blow” to be delivered around now.

    It’s a risky strategy though. I’ve spoken to a fair few folk over the past week or so that really were not impressed by the debate, and thought Eck was dodging questions. Undecided voters leaning to Yes who suddenly find themselves right back in the middle again. With five weeks to go, the plan had better be absolutely spot on, because there’s no room for error. Can’t say I’m particularly enthused by the current NHS message, although at least it’s not a provable lie like “Fact #61” that Better Together recently tweeted…

    1. Alistair Davidson says:

      I don’t think the debate went brilliantly for Salmond, and I don’t think it was deliberately poor. I think the SNP’s messaging on currency was way way off base, and they are only now getting it right.

      My point is more that there is no way to get a win in the media, but are only just behind, will finish very strongly indeed, and if we turn out our vote we will win.

      1. Doug Daniel says:

        Yep, that’ll do for me!

        And to go back to the football analogy, I do get the feeling No are starting to panic at not having put the game to bed by now, and have started just trying to punt hopeful balls into the box and shooting from stupidly far away.

        Hmm, I’m stretching this metaphor to breaking point I think…

      2. James Coleman says:

        I think the SNP’s message on currency is still well off base. YES need to get off the technical stuff and give a message which is easily understood by the masses. AlexS needs to stop pussyfooting on Plan B and come straight out with plans which do not rely on WM. And in my view that should be along the lines of…”Since the £ may be used by ANY country, we will use the £ with or without the agreement of rUK. If it is without agreement we WILL NOT take a share of rUK’s debt.” If it is not Scotland’s £, it is not Scotland’s debt.

        That will play well in Scotland during these last few weeks when everyone will be shouting about different things. The NO camp will start shouting default, but that is a technical problem which can be argued against by YES as just another scare story, while the BoE and the City bankers get squeaky bums worrying about a run on the £.

  16. Gordon says:

    Alistair Darling was disingenuous to keep asking the same question re-the £. Alec was wise not to rise to it. The £ sterling is our currency, and we will keep it,” he says. No threats about walking away with no debt, no mention of a Scottish £ that shadows BofE sterling.
    If he had come up with any of that stuff, there would have been a terrible run on the £ on the money markets as the vote is too close to call. This may also be the reason why the MSM polls maintain a safe lead for the NO campaign. If the true closeness of YES and NO opinion was shown and doubt about Scotland using it remained, you would witness a slide in the value of the currency against all others. In this respect, Alec was being responsible as it is his intention to use the £. Darling the ex-chancellor was being totally irresponsible in pursuing the matter. Someone should clue up this lawyer on economics. He certainly didn’t have much of a clue when in charge.

  17. wanvote says:

    I like this post a lot and I like Alex Salmond being ‘conversational and not confrontational’ , he knows what he’s doing and I like that too!

  18. Quite agree with this analysis. Keeping our powder dry is essential for the final push. Hold the nerve. Wait.

    At the very least I expect some surprising defections from the No campaign and a swell in the media towards reporting both sides of the argument.

    1. Steve Bowers 74% win says:

      I’m waiting for some nice defections too, unfortunately I’m also waiting for “The Establishment” to drop the big one ( went into the bookies today to see if I could get odds on it ) Think back to the Euro elections and Ireland, Gerry Adams up on terrorist charges, walks out of police station the following day and into a TV studio…… any hear anything more about that ….. nope , didn’t think so but it did the damage.
      So what are they going to chose for Salmond, rapist, paedo, terrorist ?
      I think they’ll go for the middle option because it’s more repellent to people and they have their tame media in their back pocket to keep pushing it.

      I really hope I’m wrong but we need to start prepping for it !

      1. John Page says:

        I have been expecting a Mac Zinoviev letter around now in the Daily Mail…….Alex Salmond’s Swiss bank accounts with currency speculations, Russian submarines off Kintyre, lurid sex scandal or leaked comments from senior Royal attacking Indy too close to 18th to be disproved

  19. McTim says:

    Who are you thinking of, Suzanne, for the defections? Henry McLeish has been hemming and hawing very publicly so he’s probably among the next few people to switch to Yes.

  20. Malcolm says:

    Good reasoning here.

    Most on the Yes side were eagerly waiting for Salmond to destroy Darling, to boost our morale.

    Now we realise that that would not have won over Don’t Know’s.

    Alex Salmond is a master politician and he will not let us down. All we want is a Yes majority, not winning biased debates.

  21. Malcolm says:

    Henry McLeish is an opportunist – don’t have any hopes on him.

    He will only move if he is sure of a Yes win. He is very afraid of one at the moment.

    For me it is too late for the likes of McLeish and Chisholm to change sides.

    Don’t worry, we will win without them.

  22. Fay Kennedy. says:

    This is a very biased response by me but I wish there were more statesmen like Alex Salmond. Our standards as far as politicians go has dropped so low that we can’t see another view when it’s presented by someone with vision and decency. Such rare qualities in the public arena. The media have done some snow job on the people of Scotland and here in Oz probably even worse. I just know that a Yes would be a great moment in history and another opportunity to show the world a better way. I’m one of Alisdair Gray’s converts when he suggests to imagine you live in a better place is the starting point to build that better place for the those who are not yet here and honour those who had to leave. Too many of us had to leave to discover that our heritage is worth much more than we were ever encouraged to believe. It is possible to bring change when people’s emotions and energy is channelled into things that are important to them like their families and communities. I can’t wait to be in Scotland for the big day of voting.

    1. Malcolm says:

      Agree with you.

      Alex Salmond is a conviction politician who has at all times put the people of Scotland first.

      The SNP led by him has provided the best elected government Scotland has ever had.

      He is mainly responsible for bringing us closer to independence than we have ever been in 307 years.

      He deserves our full backing at this stage. He will not let us down.

  23. This is so much more useful than the jonathan rowson article. I too have wondered why everything is ‘discussed’ as in a 3rd year secondary school debating club. Jackie bird’s shrillness sets the hectoring tone of the whole debate. It’s awful – disgraceful even. yes the odds are the might of 10 to 1 so the YES campaign have to be tactical. Simple. Stay Positive. More people will begin to have self-belief in a Scotland that is for once, what they will vote for. we will grow up and take responsibility. The dismal jimmyism of Hughie C. McDither (Tam Dalyell) will be consigned tio the grave. Let us settle the West Lothian question once and for all. Vote YES.

  24. I’ve been trying to make the same point to people. It’s about staying in the game against an onslaught, bringing on the subs (the grass roots campaign) and scoring the late winner. Every minute we stay in the game against the ever desperate media the stronger we get as more and more people ask: “do they think i button up the back?”

  25. dennis mclaughlin says:

    What utter bollox, what leader would knowingly walk on their nations flag……Aye Right.

  26. Cath says:

    I’ve been thinking recently about 2011. At that point I wasn’t politically involved at all. I was vaguely aware the SNP government seemed to have been doing a good job against a co-ordinated Westminster party and media bullying campaign. I was only watching TV and reading mainstream media, so that feeling of huge bias against the SNP was just coming from my own reading of that – no social media politics at all. As the election came closer, and the media and attacks became more shrill, I started to get angry and disappointed when polls showed Labour would win. I just felt, with the negative, bile-filled campaign they were running, they didn’t deserve to.

    I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of the soft no, undecided and heart-yes-but-not-convinced voters will be in a similar situation about now to the one I was in then. They may not feel they’re that invested in the campaign or the result, and may be undecided, but may also be starting to realise they feel disappointed or depressed when reading polls that show No will win by a landslide, or by being told Salmond was bested by Darling when perhaps they didn’t really think that. When people are at that point, they won’t need much (if anything) to persuade them to vote yes. Perhaps a little re-assurance on something, or some proof of a Better Together lie, or a bit of information that lets them vote yes. Or perhaps just that feeling of disappointment, and imagining what a NO win will look and feel like the day after will be enough. I know in 2011 I was desperate to go out and vote SNP, even though I never had before.

    As to Salmond’s performance, and the SNP and Yes campaign more generally, they’re doing a great job. Especially Salmond. He’s been the target for all the bile and smears of the British state, parties and media, he’s been pilloried and abused. And yet he remains calm, polite, reasonable at all times. It’s pretty amazing and whether you’re an SNP supporter or not, love him or hate him, he deserves huge respect for that.

  27. Anne Gorman says:

    I truly believe that Alex Salmond’s stategy against Darling was aimed at women, who apparently find him smug and blustering. He left that tactic to Darling who wagged and poked his finger and was like a dog with a bone. It didn’t help that the audience was also weighted in his favour, We need to keep calm and continue to point out the positives of voting yes and trust in the gov to continue in that vein also.

  28. edulis says:

    I think Alex recognises what he must do to overcome the weak point on sterling, but it is worth pointing out that the TV debate format does not have the control from the Chairman that FMQs has from the PSO where Alex shines every time and indeed deliberately so because both STV and BBC want a barney.

    In such circumstances the rapier thrust, the puncturing of the unionist balloon is what plays well. Alex should just stand back and let Darling lose the plot, before the coup de grace. On currency, I see nothing wrong with asking Darling what he doesn’t understand about his answer that “Scotland will use the pound.”

  29. mrbfaethedee says:

    The debates are ‘getting to know you’ sessions for the vast majority of undecideds.
    Long-service ‘observers’ of the debate crowing or crying over winning or losing the debate are just caught up in final-stretch of the campaign. Salmond looked reasonable, friendly and assured, Darling not so much…
    In my own life I’m hearing nothing but either –
    a) undecideds swinging to yes
    b) tentative no’s and undecideds looking (frequently outwith MSM) to learn more
    … both are fine by me. I’ve noticed a lot of b) after the ‘debate’.

    Said it before and I’ll say it again – Salmond is the ablative armour of the Yes campaign; the No’s can’t resist going for him but he’s got enough to outlast all they can can throw at him. When they look back and see how much effort they wasted on the constitutional diversion they made of their contempt for Salmond… lol

  30. zedeeyen says:

    The point about getting the vote out is an important one. That’s why BT are bricking it; even with a decent lead there’s just no way No voters are as motivated, en masse, as Yes.

    I’m praying for lots of rain.

  31. Jen says:

    Oh my goodness, that gets me so excited!!

  32. Runnerman says:

    Salford should read Saltire

  33. macart763 says:

    Excellent post Alistair and couldn’t agree more with the analogy.

    Its the only way it could ever be achieved and though risky, its the only strategy which stands a chance against a powerful state machine and media. Its been said many, many times, that all the big guns belong to the opposition. The only way to best their advantage was by playing their strength against them whilst forming an entirely new construct for which they had no defence. YES Scotland was that construct. An autonomous grass roots campaign which relied on a motivated and mobilised electorate who would carry the message on foot and online. They may control print and the airwaves, but they don’t control the doorstep or the internet. 😉

    With enough motivated bodies and no central hub for the establishment to concentrate their ire upon, the positive campaign, the positive message could be delivered. Of course that’s why they have tried to personalise the campaign, to centre it upon one man, one party. They clearly couldn’t stop a movement or an ideal. They simply cannot stop a motivated and up for it electorate. They focussed instead upon changing the format. Basically their intent is to hijack a referendum and turn it into an election. To pretend the focus is about politicians and party personalities instead of a people’s judgement on all politicians and their system of government.

    This referendum WILL hold the politicians and their system to account. The people CAN have the accountable, progressive system of government they desire and the current Westminster oriented political class know this. All we have to do is vote positively. All we have to do is have confidence in ourselves and each other. All we have to do is get our collective erses out of bed on the day and vote YES.

  34. longshanker says:


    You think the heavy fear has even started?

    Dear dear!

    And, as for thinking the currency argument is allowing “the enemy to commit to a weak argument”. Go homeward. Think again.

    As soon as people realise the potential behind “deposit flight”, the potential that an iScotland could be paying wages in a currency that would be lucky to buy you an imported tin of salmon, and the potential that your mortgage had suddenly become so unaffordable that it was only a matter of time before you were out on the street, then the idea of a ‘civic’, ‘progressive’ and socially ‘just’ vote for ‘democracy’ would suddenly become a mere shadow of a smidgeon of an idea of something even remotely desirable.

    I’m not arguing that that would be the case in an iScotland. But it’s got more credibility about it than Salmonds bluff and bluster over currency union and his “it’s our pound and we’re keeping it” bullshit.

    Salmond can afford to gamble. He’s got no weans and five pensions.

    Your idea that it’s some kind of wider strategy to tempt Better Together into making a tactical mistake is so naïve that it goes way beyond laughably risible. It’s deserving only of mockery and derision.

    For historical and constitutional reasons, I like the concept of independence.

    But I prefer the concept of the pound in my pocket actually being able to buy something.

    The above nightmare scenario might never happen if a Yes vote is achieved.

    And I might just be demonstrating the kind of Stockholm Syndromed spinelessness, stereotypical of all those conditioned Scots without a backbone or a brain capable of free thought due to being spoon fed by the mainstream media.

    But, even with that massive handicap to bear, it’s still patently clear that without an exit strategy on currency union, the Yes Campaign, independence, and Salmond are all f**ked.

    People care more for the money in their pocket, politically speaking, than they do for just about anything else.

    The writing’s on the wall. If Salmond fails to exorcise the ghost of “deposit flight” and its potential repercussions, say bye bye to new political landscapes and social justice, and welcome in bitterness, repercussion and acrimony.

    The polls are too low for Yes at this stage. They should be at least 50% or better.

    If the polls show 60% with a week to go, Yes is in with a chance of sneaking it.

    If not, the heavy heavy fear factor ramped up in the last week of campaigning, sinks all the Yes campaign’s efforts.

    It might not be fair, it might not be just, and it might not be right.

    But that’s politics.

    Get used to it.


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