Scotland in Union’s proposal for a ‘Truth Commission’ is not to be taken seriously. In part, because it is impractical. It would all but certainly be impossible to find or constitute a body that was “independent”, “qualified!” and “unimpeachable” to the satisfaction of all parties to the referendum. And even if such a body could be set up there is no way it could respond quickly enough to serve as an arbiter during the course of a referendum campaign that may be as short a six weeks.
Think back to the 2014 referendum. Among them, Better Together/Project Fear, the British political parties and the British government issued masses of material. Yes Scotland, the SNP and the Scottish Government contributed a fair bit of material too. That was a two-year campaign which started quite slowly. There’s a chance a ‘fact-checking’ agency might have been able to keep up with demand initially. But as the campaign went on there was huge amounts of material being published daily. It is inconceivable that this ‘Truth Commission’ would have been able to cope even with unrealistic human and technical resources.
While you’re thinking about the 2014 campaign, consider the infamous ‘Vow’. That was a dead cert for referral to the arbitration body. But it was issued only days before the vote. How might it be possible to assess the material, come to a judgement and ensure voters were notified in such a short time? Especially considering the backlog there would inevitably be.
The ‘Truth Commission’ would also be laughably toothless as it could only possibly adjudicate in issues involving the official campaign bodies. As noted, it would hardly be possible for such a body to deal with even a fraction of the material put out in the course of a referendum campaign by the registered organisations. Were its remit any wider it would be crushed under the sheer weight of referrals; because one can be sure that virtually every pamphlet, report, social media posting, speech and statement would be referred. Or, at least, one would have to assume so in setting up the body.
We have to wonder what good it might do, anyway. By the time a particular piece of material is adjudicated on, the lie is already ‘out there’. It’s in the public domain. Courtesy of the British media, the British state’s lies will already have entered the public consciousness. A dull wee rebuttal doesn’t stand a chance against a big glittery lie.
Significantly, the ‘Truth Commission’ – even if it was feasible – would still leave the anti-independence campaign with the advantage of having the biggest media trumpet by far. Even the dullards at Scotland in Union are capable of figuring that out.
Given that it is such an obvious non-starter, why suggest it? Why come out with the idea of a ‘Truth Commission’ that is patently unworkable and ineffective even if it was a practical proposition? What purpose does this serve?
I would suggest that it fits nicely with a wee propaganda ploy we’ve been seeing more and more of lately. There being no way the British Nationalists can credibly claim that they didn’t lie on an industrial scale in the 2014 campaign, they are now trying to inculcate the notion that the Yes campaign was ‘just as bad’. No honest and dispassionate observer could ever reach such a conclusion. But proposing a ‘Truth Commission’ to regulate both sides of the campaign implies parity.
Scotland in Union is home to some of the most rabidly fanatical British Nationalists. If there were no other reason to treat their proposal with scorn, that would suffice.
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