Indy needs an England strategy
The fresh crab must have been good. Shortly after his last visit, the prime minister announced he was coming back to Scotland for more, this time for a camping holiday.
In between, the chancellor made a day trip to Bute. After years of ignoring us, the Tories suddenly can’t get enough of us Scots.
Boris Johnson has form when making seemingly random visits. Before the Westminster election last year, he dropped in on a number of northern English towns, sometimes allowing himself to be heckled on the streets. It was said that his visits were followed up by sophisticated social media targeting into those areas. Many of these ‘Red Wall’ Labour areas shortly thereafter fell to the Tories.
As reported by George Kerevan in The National a few weeks ago, two of the key players of the Tory ‘Meme Machine’ social media operation, Sean Topham and Ben Guerin, have now been drafted to work on Scotland.
Peter Geoghegan and journalists at The Guardian and Open Democracy have since revealed that the UK government gave the duo a £3 million contract for 6-months of coronavirus PR. Now, you might think that UK govt comms on Covid-19 has been a murderous muddle, but sometimes you’re only as good as the decisions taken from above.
Having worked in the Middle East, I’ve heard of lucrative PR contracts in my time. I’ve never come across anything in the realm of £500,000 per month. What it means for their work with the Tories on Scotland remains to be seen. I would urge readers to be vigilant regarding what is appearing on their socials.
Don’t be taken in by appearances of buffoonery. The Tories are determined not to let Scotland go. We were told that the Queen purred like a cat when she was told Scotland voted no in 2014, and the PM does not want royalty barking at him instead.
The recent daytrips take me back to 2014. English friends of mine suddenly became vocal about their love of Scotland. Some of them finally made the trip they always promised and came up to chap doors in another nation’s vote. Remember the schmaltzy advert featuring Grant from Eastenders about being ‘best friends’. If this was a Friends episode, it would be the one where Joey controls all the money and makes all the big decisions.
Quite a force of English society took part in our referendum – media outlets, oil companies, all the Westminster leaders, spy chiefs, banks, and even supermarkets made interventions.
This time, we shouldn’t wait for all this to come onto us. It would be a mistake to locate the only field of battle inside Scotland. After all, colonies often left London rule because the mood of the chattering classes in London changed.
So let’s get Johnson on the backfoot. We know the SNP message is popular amongst the English public. Nicola Sturgeon’s television performances have won rave reviews and even calls for the SNP to stand for elections in England.
The SNP worldview has gone down well with English liberals in the past, but now, in a post-Brexit, post-Covid world, they will know that they can’t plausibly ask the Scots to hang around in a union of permanent omnishambles. Even BBC coverage which so many Scots objected to in 2014 could be framed very differently by BBC staffers next time around.
But only if we make the case. Only if we keep our purpose at the centre of everything we say and do. We want to improve the wellbeing of our people, play a positive role in the world, and save the planet we live on. All in stark contrast to the work of the Westminster government.
All of us have got a role in this. We’ve got people we want to convince to support independence – friends, family, co-workers and neighbours. Most of us also know folk in England. Talk to them and engage them with your hopes and dreams for the future of your nation.
We should also countenance major action in London if standoff on a referendum continues, and public health allows. Johnson is more comfortable with us marching around Scottish towns than if we turned up in large numbers on his doorstep. Enough of us would make this journey. In 2002, for a protest on the Iraq War, we took 50 coaches from Glasgow to London.
There will be tens of thousands ready to camp outside Downing Street if the political point of decision reaches the fever pitch we are expecting in the coming year. It’ll be the talk of London. And if we do it right, thousands of decent people in England will march with us. What a way to set the tone for our future relationship. Best friends, hand in hand, as equals.
Let’s get Boris Johnson on the backfoot.