14 Lessons from the Scottish Referendum

1) People care

The concept of apathy has always been offensive: it implies that people don’t care about their neighbours, their families, or even themselves. No. The problem is that people are alienated from politics. They have been convinced that engaging in the world as a citizen will do nothing to transform it. It’s been said a thousand times, but the Scottish referendum showed that when people do think they can make a difference, they most certainly do engage.

2) Now is the time for radical politics

When the Yes campaign launched two years ago, the SNP talked about attracting business to the glens and yes support sat at around 30%. But as socialists and Greens mobilised thousands to a much more radical message, Yes Scotland and the SNP followed their lead. They became convinced that the road to a yes vote ran up the left.

They explicitly campaigned for nuclear disarmament, with the yes office distributing car stickers saying “bairns not bombs”. John Swinney shut up about corporation tax cuts, fessed up to his Keynsian instincts, and pledged to borrow billions to end austerity. Nicola Sturgeon spoke again and again about the evils of the benefits sanctions regime and Salmond talked about the horrors of the Bedroom Tax. Even the business wing of the Yes campaign explicitly called for an industrial policy and for free education – putting it to the left of Labour.

And that’s before you consider the more radical parts of the campaign. CND handed out, across the country, an instruction manual “how to disarm a nuclear bomb”. The Radical Independence Campaign, under the slogan “Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours” won the support of thousands of people in abandoned, working class areas by highlighting the opportunities for policies more radical than will ever be permitted in Westminster.

This isn’t because Scots are much more left wing than English people. It’s because the Westminster consensus is a long way to the right of the people of Britain. That Yes Scotland got more votes than any political party in Scottish history, and increased its support by 15% over the course of the campaign by talking about such radical ideas tells us something important – people are ready for radical politics. That’s as true in the rest of the UK as it is in Scotland.

3) People can change their minds

Image via Poll Bludger

Much of current politics in the UK seems to be plagued with the idea that no one can ever be convinced of anything. Politicians use focus groups to find out what people already think, and repeat it back to them. But in the course of this referendum, around 15% of Scots shifted from supporting no to voting yes – in politics, it’s important to remember that it is possible to persuade people of your case.

4) Canvass!

There is a really easy way to communicate your campaign message directly to people – go and knock on their doors and talk to them. It’s time that the English left learnt to do this – first, because we convince the people we’re talking to, but also, just as importantly, it’s the best way there is to get good at explaining your ideas in all of your other communications channels. I have never understood press officers who think they know how to persuade people of something through the media, but never go and talk to the people they are trying to persuade to see if their messages are effective. It’s easy to knock on doors, and we should do it much, much more.

5) Our support lies in the working class

People in working class areas were much more likely to vote yes. Partly, there’s a question of identity there – “British” has always been a label used more by the elite (apart from among ethnic minority communities in England and Ulster loyalists). But largely, it’s because the less well off you are, the less stake you have in the world as it is, and the more stake you have in change.

Too much of the left has become convinced that we are basically a middle class club, and that working class people are bigots. Persuading us of this self-fulfilling prophecy is the greatest trick the right ever pulled, and we have to stop believing it.

6) Build your own media…

The yes movement was built up around its own alternative media – Bella Caledonia did a brilliant job of this, but was not the only example, and hopefully openDemocracy contributed a bit too. Most of the traditional media will always ultimately be a part of the establishment, and so cannot be relied upon to communicate the key arguments for radical changes.

In particular, what was important about the alternative media was its role in movement building – in bringing new people into the campaign and in communicating within the campaign: I doubt many of the people who started out as no voters or undecideds were avid readers of any of the prominent Yes sites. But their yes voting friends and relations were, and it was through these that they found their arguments: you’ve got to preach to the choir to get them to sing.

7) …but don’t ignore the traditional media

The point at which the yes campaign started to catch up was the second debate: an absolutely traditional TV moment – if one which couldn’t be filtered through their editorialising. If the yes campaign had ignored the newspapers entirely, would the Sunday Herald have endorsed? The demographic among whom it lost heavily – older people – is that which is least likely to be on social media, and most likely to rely on old fashioned newspapers, radio, and telly. Whilst we need to do everything we can not to rely on the old fashioned press, we can’t get away with ignoring it entirely.

8) Build your own organisations

The Yes campaign didn’t just consist of a series of actions organised by loose collections of individuals. It started by establishing a number of organisations – the Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective, Women for Independence, Scots Asians for Yes, Common Weal, and others. Often, these were in practice hubs for a loose collection of individuals, but the fact that there were more permanent platforms allowed organisation around them, and gave people a license to participate.

9) Join a political party

The people who have benefited most from the referendum are the yes campaigning parties: the SNP, Greens and SSP. This is because parties provide a permanent structure with a clear set of values and regular meetings you can come to and activities you can get involved with. They should have internal, democratic processes through which they can renew themselves, replace their leaders and, in the case of these parties at least, change their policies.

Huge numbers of people got involved in the yes campaign without being a member of any party, and every campaign must be built to attract people like this. But many thousands of those people have since decided that, for the long haul, they need to be in a party. If we’re asking what lessons the left outside Scotland can learn from the Yes campaign, it’s worth starting by asking what lessons the people involved learnt. And the most obvious one is that thousands decided that they did want to be in a political party after all.

And remember that parties aren’t static. With trebling in membership of both SNP and Greens, the parties are now totally different – those who’ve joined must take some of the referendum spirit with them.

10) The markets will bully

As the referendum reached its crescendo, there was a clear feeling amongst hundreds of people I spoke to that they didn’t really listen to or care what Westminster said. They didn’t believe a word of it. They did, however, worry about the markets, about companies threatening to leave, etc. Of course, big businesses will make similar threats whenever any radical change is on the cards, and it’s important we remember this and learn how to cope with it – another reason that radicals shouldn’t rely for support on those who have too much of a stake in the system.

11) Demographic differences are real

Different polls from voting day tell slightly different specific stories, but they all have the same trend. Old people were much more likely to vote no, and so were women. For progressives to win, we need to find ways to reach out into a range of demographics…

12) You win by making your rulers fear you

Wales has long been seeking more powers for its Assembly. There have been two commissions into the question, recommending just that. But they haven’t got those powers. Scotland had a referendum, and forced the British state to its knees. We haven’t got the promised powers yet, but we certainly now have a better chance of securing them than Wales – and if Wales does, it will be in part because of the Scottish process.

This is an important lesson for the left – too often, our campaigning organisations put their resources into writing a detailed report and then politely asking for the changes it recommends, as if our rulers will concede to rational demands. If you want to win change, it’s much more important to mobilise a mass movement for it, and to directly confront power until it is forced to compromise.

13) 16 and 17 year olds can absolutely be trusted to vote

Having watched the way in which 16 and 17 year olds engaged seriously with the referendum, even many of those who most avidly opposed giving it to them in the first place now think they should always have the right to vote. Here’s what Tory MSP John Lamont, who previously opposed the move, had to say on the matter to the Borders Telegraph:

“I was hugely impressed by the level of engagement and understanding that our young people demonstrated; We should be very proud of them. Now that they have been given the vote and demonstrated their ability to participate in politics, I believe the time has come to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in all elections.”

Our experience – and lots of people have said that they found the same – was that 16 and 17 year olds were often more engaged and so more informed than older people. They cannot go back to being shut out of our polling stations.

14) It’s the economy stupid

Before the campaign started, research showed people would change how they voted based on whether they felt it would make them £500 better or worse off. And ultimately, two years later, that’s largely what they did. People voted no because they weren’t sufficiently convinced of the economic case for a yes vote.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s not like there is much of an economic case for the status quo – median wages have fallen 8% since 2008, and our recession has only ended because of a growing housing bubble. But change is always more frightening than the status quo, and as long as the right can tell people that a radical change will risk pensions, huge numbers will fear it too much.



First published on Our Kingdom.

Comments (39)

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  1. R. Llewellyn Tyler says:

    Dead right as regards Wales. Dragons led by poodles, but the dragons elect the Labour poodles.

  2. When you say not to ignore the traditional press, do you also mean the BBC?

  3. robert says:

    I apologise for what I said on the day of the referendum. I was having a nervous breakdown at the time and wouldn’t normally behave like that. Here is what I should have said


    I’ll explain this better
    in the cold light of day,
    but I’m voting No,
    And here’s what I say)

    Let’s team up together,
    Keep the Tories out,
    We all have English friends,
    Give them a shout.

    We have a common enemy,
    English ain’t all Eton Boys,
    Let’s get them out together,
    And make some noise.

    Westminster don’t represent
    The Ferry or Newcastle,
    So let’s get together,
    And show them some hassle.

    The Tories hurt us all
    Let’s show them how it’s done
    Let’s team up together
    We’ll fight them as one.

    1. Hi Robert,

      How do you propose we do that?

    2. Fed up with the lies and propaganda of the London Media Industrial Complex says:

      Robert, did you enjoy the Scots Flag being burned in George Square ?

    3. diabloandco says:

      You must have missed how the Red Tories hurt us all – where were you when the ” workers” party was stitching us up with yet more lies?

      Keep the Tories out?

      keep the Lib/Lab/Con out.

  4. Craig says:

    Good post. I would stop promoting the SSP though, they’re going to be exposed as a bunch of liars and careerists themselves when Tommy Sheridan is cleared. They well and truly stabbed him in the back and splintered the left all over the place as a result. They deserve to be consigned to the political wilderness.

    1. Dave Coull says:

      “stop promoting the SSP though, they’re going to be exposed as a bunch of liars and careerists themselves when Tommy Sheridan is cleared”

      I don’t give a damn about the SSP, Craig
      But Tommy Sheridan is a LIAR, who has never had a proper job in his entire life, always a professional politician or a would-be-professional politician.
      I don’t give a wet fart whether he gets “cleared” or not so far as the State is concerned.
      Regardless of what the State says, I’ll still call him a liar.
      And I have got nothing to do with the SSP.
      Unlike Tommy I was never a member of that organisation.
      Mhairi Macalpine was, at one time, a member of it, however.
      She left it long ago, and not to pursue a “career” through some other party either.
      She says that, when she was a member of the SSP. Tommy basically admitted all in a one-to-one conversation with her, acknowledging that he was lying, but asking for her support anyway, because his twisted idea of “solidarity” was “everybody has to support Tommy even when he’s lying”.
      I believe her.
      I don’t believe him.

  5. Brilliant piece of journalism – now we know what can be achieved and what is possible……..let us all get on with it yee haa !!!

  6. Political Tourist says:

    Robert, thanks for that.
    I’ll be sure to think of British working class solidarity next time i get sectioned at the job center.
    Better Together and all that.

  7. Dave Coull says:

    I agree with nearly all of this. Except…..

    “research showed people would change how they voted based on whether they felt it would make them £500 better or worse off”

    That’s not true.

    There was no respectable body of “research” showing any such thing.

    There was just a rather dodgy so-called “opinion poll”

    The question that the ‘pollsters’ did NOT ask invalidated any claim to it being serious “research”.

    The question they didn’t ask was “If you could be absolutely certain you would be no worse off with independence, would you vote Yes?”

  8. Dave Coull says:

    Oh, and I don’t agree with point (9) about joining a political party.

    1. ian foulds says:


      I agree 100%.

      Don’t know your reasons but my stance was that the Referendum and the whole issue of Independence is NON-POLITICAL – as was the Referendum Question.

      It was only made so by the politicos.


      1. Dr Ew says:


        So the question of wholesale reconstruction of the entire state apparatus of a ruling elite, depriving said elite of a vast swathe of its wealth is… NON-POLITICAL?

        On which planet would that be?

        Yours apolitically

        The Dr

  9. The key point you make here is the fact that Yes “increased its support by 15% over the course of the campaign by talking about such radical ideas tells us something important – people are ready for radical politics. That’s as true in the rest of the UK as it is in Scotland”

    One of the most radical (if obvious) realisations vast numbers of people had was that the mainstream media, and other establishment authority figures from corporations to celebrities, are focused on keeping us in line.

    If they were lying to us so harshly on this one subject, what does that say of their reporting and judgement on everything else?

    Which brings me to your points 13 and 10:

    – I’d agree that the ‘We voted depending on who would make us £500 better off” story is just that. A story to tell us that all we care about is money and ourselves. When that was self-evidently not true. However,

    – I’d also agree that the bullying and scare mongering over the economy (and in particular the refusal to share the £) was the key tool in the No box. In that sense answering the £500 question was really about people saying whether they’d been successfully frightened or not. Seeing Robin Macalpine respond to the economic questions (search on YouTube) in contrast to the way the SNP responded was utterly revealing:
    (1) Robin took the threats at their word and, in effect, said we’d be better off without the predatory corporations forever holding a gun to our heads, that if they threatened to leave they could just leave and we’d develop a better industrial system without them (better public transport, public energy companies, etc.).
    (2) In contrast the SNP tried to say the corporates – RBS, Osborne, etc – were bluffing (which of course they were) and that they’d stay and carry on as before. That felt just plain wrong: you don’t want bullies to stay and run the place after threatening you – either their threats are real and they’ll harm us, or they are liars and so harm us.

    Taking the economic argument by the scruff of the neck and using the fact of the threats to show why the public needs to reclaim the corporate sphere will be critical to our success in 2017-18. It is unlikely the SNP will be able to embody that approach without a further powerful pull in they direction by an ongoing and resurgent Yes movement that us looking at his to tackle causes as much as deal with symptoms.

    And the other key difference in 2017-18 is likely to be the dawning fact that ever warmer weather does not just make for nice Octobers now, but means the pot us frogs are sitting in is starting to move towards the tipping point where we are o longer able to leap out.

    Taking the economy seriously (but on our terms), and taking the smashing up of the worlds ecology seriously (but by tackling the system doing the smashing, not just through behaviour change) will mean the learning and organising from the last two years can have prepared us for the radical, reasonable and responsible changes that victory in September 2014 would not by itself have delivered.

    Whether we’d got a Yes or – as has happened – have to cope with a No, these next 2 years were always going to be the ones for the serious work of facing up to what has to be done, and the good work of keeping this positive and inclusive and fun.

    If you join a party, make sure you keep partying!

    If you don’t, make sure you keep political.

    Above all use the new media, the Common Weal spaces, the New Left Project, to carry on working across parties, and outside parties, to make a world where partying is not an escape from society but a way to celebrate it.

    1. Whoops, tapping on phone, should have read:

      “It is unlikely the SNP will be able to embody such an approach without a further powerful pull in THIS direction by an ongoing and resurgent Yes movement that IS looking at HOW to tackle causes as much as deal with symptoms.”

    2. I agree with you Justin, I saw Robin on youtube (think it was meeting in Troon a few months ago, but am on horribly slow inet conn in Africa so cannot confirm) where a Tory speaker says better a no vote cos if it is not broke don’t fix it.. then Robin comes on and says “isn’t broken”? in incredulous tone then lists series of indicators showing how far UK is behind the rest, child care, pensions, productivity, working hours etc then goes into solutions, renewable energy and local banking etc. Really powerful stuff, something I did not see articulated so well anywhere else.

      On a more general point (sorry BC if I am repeating myself) but one thing is missing from the above list is reform of local government. I think one lesson is that people lack confidence to run their own country. Scotland is way too overcentralised. It needs local government with tax raising and spending power. I think this would be a win win for Scotland and the SNP. Setting up a federal system inside Scotland will lead to economic growth and give people confidence and hands on experience in government and getting things done for themselves. Scotland Is too big for a centralized government. In eg Switzerland the Cantuns (roughly corresponding to Scottish regions) send one or two elected representatives to a national second house (Council of States). Below the level of Cantuns there are local government (Gemeinde). Where I live the Gemeinde is for 12,000 people. Income tax is paid to three different levels of government according to where it is spent, so mostly my income tax goes to the Cantun, with smaller amounts to the Gemeinde and the National government. The Gemeinde publishes accounts and posts it to all housholds so we can see where the tax has been spent. Switzerland is a successful place and I think the power and control of people in their communities is an important part of this. Switzerland has one poss system where examples could be copied but other versions of decentralized government are available.

  10. Peter Arnott says:

    Outstanding. Heartening. Clear. Good job.

  11. I’d add POLITICS IS FUN again. The people energised and involved are not going to give up.

  12. theindyman says:

    Can I suggest an extra one?

    15) Stop being so nice to the nobots! All through the campaign, I proposed that when the nobots lied, we should call them LIARS! I was told to calm down as that was what THEY wanted us to do!

    Well, guess what? The LIARS won because we didn’t shout loud enough against them! Perhaps next time, we can act as if we really WANT independence and call the nobots for what they are?

  13. I enjoyed the article but like a lot of what I’ve read since the referendum there does seem to an assumption that the “45%” are effectively all decided, committed pro independence voters whereas a large chunk of them swithered right up until the last minute and given a re-run would be by no means certain of coming up with the same result.
    Moreover my instinct is that no matter how much it dismays the committed political activists of the left amongst other factors such as age, pensions and other financial concerns, another issue is the simple fact that Scotland as a whole is not quite as left leaning as we all seem to want to believe. Some pragmatic thinking is required if any significant element of the 55% are going to be converted

    1. Archie,

      I have to agree. Scotland is not as ‘left’ as it used to be; like every other country there is a mix of political beliefs which will affect – and did affect – any vote. Telling 400,000+ conservative voters that they’ll never have the government of their choice in Scotland EVER AGAIN is hardly going to attract them to the cause. Apparently 95% of Tory voters said no, that figure alone lost it for us.
      We cannot alienate and disenfranchise significant groups in the way that Westminster does; if we want an independent nation we have to create a vision where many needs are catered for. Concentrating on a vision of an idealistic socialist utopia will simply not cut it.

      1. Dave Coull says:

        ” Apparently 95% of Tory voters said no, that figure alone lost it for us” claims whoever it is that uses the pseudo-name “todayinscotland”.

        NONSENSE. The great majority of Tories were always going to vote No. Seeking to appease them might have scrounged a few more Tory votes for Yes, but it would have done so at the expense of LOSING far more Yes votes than it could possibly have gained. The Radical Independence Campaign campaigned actively in the housing schemes of cities such as Dundee and Glasgow with a message which emphasised not just independence but social transformation. That message bore fruit in both of these cities delivering a majority YES. I personally know both a woman in her late 50s who was a first time voter (for Yes) and a man also in his late 50s who was also a first time voter (for Yes). There were thousands more like them, and there were near a hundred thousand who registered to vote for the first time since Thatcher’s poll tax. You simply wouldn’t have had their votes if Yes aimed its appeal at Tories. You can’t be two-faced about this. Either you’r advocating the social transformation of Scotland or you’re appealing to the Tories, but you can’t do both. The way that YES could have won would have been the entire Yes movement following the example set by the Radical Independence Campaign; there were still many, many thousands more votes which could have been gained by such an approach.

        1. Slightly aggressive opening forte Dave; my name is Colin if youre interested and since i was signed in under the name of my blog, thats what showed up.
          We’ll have to disagree. For every new voter you can name i can name one who didnt want a socialist republic because they felt it threatened what they had. We cannot gain independence by solely relying on the support of ‘traditional’ labour voters. 150,000 people voted for UKIP in the euro elections; not an anomoly, a fact. Scotland may be mostly left but obviously not left enough to win on that ticket alone.
          Much is made by the left of the pensioners vote, nothing is made of the right vote because it doesnt suit the agenda.
          If we genuinely want independence then we have to create a vision of a country where everyone can find a place and recognise the potential, radicalism has its place but it will ALWAYS be a minority philosophy.

          And if theres any doubts, labour voter till 2011 when i switched to SNP. Ill continue to vote SNP because it makes sense.

          If youre a straightforward left wing fruitcake, my reply will make absolutely no difference to your opinion but hopefully you can see we are on the same side.

          Colin Kennedy
          (Address and date of birth withheld for obvious reasons) x

      2. tis – I don’t have any stats to re-inforce my point but I live in East Renfrewshire and as expected we didn’t come close to any form of upset here.
        In areas such as Aberdeen and Edinburgh it was the same story and as you say if the campaign sets out by telling voters in these areas that they are unlikely to get any form of government that might appeal to them then they are alienated from the word go.
        I actually think that the ground is being set for increased Tory representation come 2015.

        1. Dave Coull says:

          In a referendum, THERE ARE NO CONSTITUENCIES. It goes by who gets the most votes in the whole country. And the appease-the-Tories approach which you advocate would have lost far, FAR more votes than it could possibly have gained.

          Edinburgh, that’s that place where “Trainspotting” was set, isn’t it? Not that I was ever a fan of that film. I preferred “Sunshine On Leith”. But the point is, the idea that Edinburgh is all middle class is a complete myth. And the same goes for Aberdeen, of course. And, although both Aberdeen RIC and Edinburgh RIC made valiant efforts, there can really be little doubt that there were tens of thousands more Yes votes there for the taking, if only much of the rest of the YES campaign had not had too middle-class a focus.

  14. Michael Gallagher says:

    Before coming to power in 2007, the SNP promised to devolve power to communities via Scotland’s 1200 community councils. As soon as they won the election they forgot about this commitment. This this seems to go against their whole raison d’être which is to empower Scots. Instead they have only now introduced their pathetic Community Empowerment Bill, which will come into force next year. In fact does the opposite of what it claims to do. By saying that ANY community group can take over public service delivery (as long as it can meet the virtually impossible challenge of doing it better and cheaper than the existing provider), it will create a situation of divide-and-rule, pitting community groups against each other. Additionally it reduces community councils to the level of just another form of community group, ignoring its statutory role as the third tier of Scottish democracy and effectively putting it into the same category as a mother-and-toddler or in-bloom group. When it comes to community empowerment, the SNP is just a bunch of liars.

    1. Crubagan says:

      I’d agree with this. People might be more inclinded to support local democracy if it had more impact on their lives.

      An example is the forthcoming rural parliament in Scotland. This is modelled on the Swedish rural parliament, but will have no set role for community councils. In Sweden, community councils are 75% of the delegates at the rural parliament.

  15. Crubagan says:

    I’d expand on the economic slice above – it was also issues around currency, EU membership, lender of last resort that, according to the Ashcroft polling post-vote, were the strongest determinant.

    If I could add a 15th, it would be attachement to Britishness. As I recall, around 70% of those born elsewhere in the UK voted No (English-born Scottish citizens are around 400,000 people). For these, there is a genuine attachment to ideas of Britishness and a way will need to be found to accomodate their aspirations.

  16. Dr Ew says:

    Some interesting stuff in the article but analysis of the BBC’s role was conspicuous by its absence.

    I would also echo Stuart Vallis (above) that RADICAL reform of local government should be a priority for the Left in Scotland. Local authorities are a remote, corporate, undemocratic and unresponsive set-up which conforms to the neutralised Conservative model and 1996’s gerrymandered boundaries.

    We need to devolve power, budgets and democratic accountability to a far more local level: Engage people in politics and enpower them to make a difference to their own communities. That’s where the power fo the Yes Movement lies and its style and strengths are in community-based engagement. Local government is, generally, disliked so bringing forward a radical agenda to restructure it closer to communities would, I’d suggest, be a popular move with long-term benefits for democracy and the independence cause.

    RIC, Common Weal, SSP and the Greens can co-operate on plans to do just that, with the Greens Land Value Tax policy a first step to rebuilding and redefining local governance. The SNP’s tendency to centralise power may mean that it flinches at the thought of such radical reform but if they realise who such changes would break up the old Labour strongholds I believe they could be persuaded – especially if their influx of new members helps them rediscover some of their radical mojo. After all, it needs to find something for all those tens of thousands to do.

  17. Jim Bennett says:

    I can’t really put my finger on why but this article really irritated me. It’s probably because I’m a naturally irritable curmudgeon but it might partly to do with some of the contents of the article! So here goes…

    The first lesson of the referendum we should learn is that we lost. We Lost. I was interviewed (rather bizarrely) for Canadian TV a couple of days before the result and they asked me what my greatest fear was. I replied it would be that we perform like the Scottish football team, put in a great performance, lose the match in extra time but pick up the best supporters award in the aftermath. I think this article, for me, plays into that. The authors appear to be awarding the YES campaign the best supporters award as a consolation prize but not actually acknowledging that we were beaten.

    The fact of the scale of the impacts of the defeat isn’t lost on us. Four weeks gone and we’re in a foreign war, seen further attacks on the poorest, prepared ourselves to be fracked…I needn’t go on, you know the script.

    So, in what way did the no campaign perform better than us? It won, so it’s important to look at this. I think it’s worth looking at three areas:
    – Telephone canvassing: their approach to call centre campaigns to targeted voters in key demographics, where any amount of lies could be told and not be reported, was significant.
    – Marshalling their scare message: ensuring that big business had a carefully choreographed scare campaign which chimed with focussed group fears previously identified.
    – Using Positions of Power to repeat & develop the message of fear.

    The YES campaign at national level should have seen all this coming, prepared it’s arguments and had channels ready to destabilise the latter two. We’d seen it all, every single no argument, in Quebec but the national YES campaign seemed to be surprised by every new intervention. The YES campaign should have been ready to relentlessly destroy the credibility of any individual business person/personality/politician making a no intervention. I mean a really dirty and nasty destruction of them and their personal/business/political history. We should have had files on all the probable suspects well in advance to destabilise every individual business and political leader poking their nose in.

    The last three days of the campaign saw parades of saltires (reminiscent of the 1992 Neil Kinnock pre-election triumphalism) and all we heard from YES Scotland was talk of momentum, rather than talk of policy. The national YES campaign failed in the final few days to clearly articulate and get it’s points across. They should have been better prepared to control the game.

    I think one other point that irritated me was the allegation that the SNP was talking about “bringing business to the glens” before the campaign began. I don’t think that that’s true but let’s look at the referendum result. We lost in every single rural area in Scotland. As a tactic in a referendum, the constituency that needs to be built is much wider than simply one which could score a landslide in a multi-party election. So, if the SNP stopped talking (if they ever started) about bringing jobs to rural Scotland, don’t you think that that might possibly have been an error? Some industrial areas managed to build a coalition of support for YES but in rural areas, the YES vote struggled to go beyond the SNP election vote. So, why not look at how Sinn Fein has managed to ride the two horses of rural conservatism at the same time as working class social democracy? Again, not rocket science but preparation.

    I’ve gone on too long and if you’ve managed to read to the end of this rant, then congratulations! I should have complimented the authors for actually putting their heads above the parapet and writing. So guys, well done, keep up the positive work but let’s try at least to look at elements of how the other campaign effectively succeeded and see how we can defeat it in the future.

    Post Script: I think I know what’s got me all irritated about this article. There was an assertion that the YES vote increased by 15% from 30% to 45% in the article. Oh, FFS! That’s not a 15% increase, it’s a 50% increase!!!

    I’m too much of a grumpy pedantic for this stuff…

    1. Crubagan says:

      Pedant, pedantic is the adjective 😉

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        Oh Crubagan…you’re right and I’ve no excuse because I did proof read it before posting. Could I claim irony?

        1. Dave Coull says:

          You can claim irony if you like. Personally, I never bother with it. All my clothes are drip-dry anyway.

    2. Dave Coull says:

      I don’t like endless “where did we go wrong?” agonising. The dice in the referendum were very heavily loaded against Yes. We fought a referendum campaign in which the immensely powerful anti-democratic forces of British State, the British State’s bureaucracy (“civil service”), The British State Broadcasting Corporation, Big Business, Big Media, the Tory Party, the New Labour Party (with its criminal record for electoral fraud), and last but not least MI5 and all the other “secret” agencies of the British State and their countless employees prepared to stop at nothing in order to serve and preserve the State which pays their salaries, were ranged against us. Despite the process being heavily loaded against us, Dundee became YES city, and Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, delivered a YES majority. At least forty five percent (the international investigation into the numerous instances of vote fraud by certain elements on the No side hasn’t happened yet) voted Yes. Huge numbers of people became engaged in their own futures as never before. Westminster politicians were shitting themselves, and treated the referendum like an election, making some very rash promises in the last week or so of the campaign which are already starting to unravel. There is every reason to expect support for independence to continue to rise. Westminster imposed “austerity” is going to get worse and worse. If you’re not going to be part of the grassroots community based fight back against that, then get out of the way of those of us who are. UKIP will be driving England towards isolation from other countries. Despite the false promises given at a very late stage in the referendum campaign, for example by Gordon Brown supposedly speaking on behalf of all three main Westminster parties (and none of them disowned what he said at the time), the reality is that Westminster isn’t going to let us have anything like full Home Rule. And, no matter how strong support for independence grows, and no matter how compelling the case for another referendum should become as a result of all this, Westminster will refuse to allow one. So, the question of a Declaration of Independence is likely to come up within a few years.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        Hi Dave. The irony joke was much appreciated – very funny!

        Less funny was one comment by you: “If you’re not going to be part of the grassroots community based fight back against that, then get out of the way of those of us who are.” I doubt whether the anti-austerity credentials of most people contributing comments on the Bella site could be challenged. In a variety of different ways, people tackle and agitate against situations that they find themselves in as a result of the austerity agenda. Just because some people might choose to indulge in a method of campaigning that isn’t your way, then don’t do the whole sectarian left thing of calling them the 2014 equivalent of social fascists.

        …but the irony joke was still the best I’ve heard today!

      2. Dave,
        ‘If you’re not going to be part of the grassroots community based fight back against that, then get out of the way of those of us who are.’
        C’mon mate, that’s a trifle melodramatic eh?
        I don’t believe there was fraud at ground level big enough to affect the result, I do however believe that postal votes were manipulated to a ridiculous and result-changing extent. The referendum returned the largest ever postal vote in UK history. Seriously? A referendum with only 4million voters produced more postal votes than a general election with 47million voters?! We were screwed from the outset but no one shouted loudly enough about that at the time.
        As for the future, we’ve all got things we can do to make a difference, I just hope the will is still there a year from now.

  18. Humpty Broon sat on Hadrian’s Wall
    Along came Indy who caused him to fall
    All the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men
    Couldn’t put UK ‘together’ again

  19. i feel a bit offended by 5

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