Thought I’d visit the Voices for Scotland website to find out who this Alyn White character is and maybe find some clues as to where he gets his half-baked ideas from. I knew right away that I was on a Scottish Independence Convention site because the first thing I saw was a demand for money. This is before I’m even offered any information about what Voices for Scotland is or what their ideas are. Having read Alyn White’s column I’m now thinking that getting the demand for money in first was probably a good idea.
Turns out Alyn White is the Campaign Organiser for Voices for Scotland. Which may be a good career move for him. Voices for Scotland evidently consider him the man for the job. Ah hae ma doots! Looking at his ideas for the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence I kept thinking a was getting the opening spiel from one of those eager, hungry-looking young people who accost you in the street for some reason anxious to know whether you’re satisfied with your current electricity and gas supplier. I don’t even know who my electricity and gas supplier is. Which could be taken for apathy. But which could also be evidence of quiet satisfaction.
Having lived through the Winter of Discontent – which lasted for seven years between 1978 and 1979 – I am inured to power cuts – which are, in any case, rare enough and brief enough not to wear out their nostalgic value. Having had a mobile phone for about 25 years, I am well aware of the futility of tariff-chasing. The hunt for the perfect call, text and data plan can become as damaging a preoccupation as addiction to gambling, but without the rewards. At least with gambling, you get the thrill of the occasional win. With tariff-chasing, you get no more than the fleeting illusion of the ideal tariff before some spotty wee nyaff sneeringly and/or gleefully informs you that the perfect tariff is still eluding and you’re being ripped off.
My point is, young Alyn here doesn’t sound like he’s organising a political campaign at all. And certainly not a campaign such as the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence. There is no sense that he appreciates the reality of Scotland’s predicament. There is nothing to indicate that he has the slightest appreciation of what we’re up against. My distinct impression is that he hasn’t got a clue.
“We’re the “Yes campaign” you’ve been looking for, just with a wee bit less “Yes”.”
I can see that as the strapline for a bank. It’s twee enough to be rendered in cross-stitch, framed and hung on the wall above the display cabinet with the glass animals and the seashell crinoline ladies and the unidentifiable holiday souvenirs from Tyrol. (There were a lot more expletives in that sentence when I first wrote it. Almost every second * word.) What I don’t see is an approach to the campaign that is in keeping with the nature of the endeavour. And certainly not appropriate to the kind of vicious, malicious, unprincipled, fanatical opposition we face.
The impression of a total lack of awareness is hardly lessened on reading the following willie-dribble.
“Yes/No labelling can be divisive and implies that someone who voted No in 2014 was wrong and that they are different to Yes voters.”
If I had hair I’d be tearing it out by now. There is no way to express, without resort to those expletives, how much I detest this sort of pretentious, vacuous, corporate guru-speak that has more to do with sounding wise-ish than with designing a campaign which addresses the realpolitik. It is wrong in every way. Yes/No labelling isn’t divisive. It’s merely labelling a division which is already there and which isn’t going to go away just because you stop calling it what it is. Those who voted No in 2014 were wrong. Many now know and happily admit just how wrong they were. And they were different. That’s why they voted differently. They were different in all or most of the ways that it was necessary to be different in order to come to a different conclusion.
This is not Disney! It’s Tarantino! This is not a corporate ‘bonding’ and team-building and box-ticking away-day at some country house hotel, FFS! It’s a campaign to save Scotland! Literally, to save this country! It is not some horribly stilted ice-breaking game or embarrassing and pointless role-playing exercise. It is an existential battle between diametrically and irreconcilably opposed positions. In the blue corner, the idea of Scotland as a nation with a distinct identity and a distinctive political culture and aspirations informed by democratic principles such as popular sovereignty and progressive ideals. Something like what Alyn White refers to; but considerably less saccharine.
In the red corner, the ancient structures of power, privilege and patronage which define a British state that has grasping ambition instead of laudable aspirations and no more scruples than social conscience. The British political elite is not merely being awkward about a new referendum. They are intent on eradicating the Scotland we know and eliminating any possibility of the Scotland to which we aspire.
Alyn Whyte is probably a decent enough chap. If you were running a charity dedicated to rescuing maltreated llamas, I’m sure he’d do fine. But that’s not the Yes campaign. And, by the way, it is and shall remain the YES campaign no matter what some marketing whiz-kid wants to do to prove his radical credentials. This is not a sales exercise at all. The usual parallels between political campaigns and product/service marketing have been left behind. The metaphors which may have been useful are now misleading. Very misleading.
Generally speaking, the people who pester you in the pedestrian precinct to give them just a minute of your time so that they can persuade you to give them as many minutes of your time as it takes to get you to sign something don’t face a barrage of lies and disinformation and smears and people with megaphones yelling at potential sign-ups that if the pen so much as touches the paper the sky will fall and Scotland will be reduced to a film set for post-apocalyptic action dramas made by Netflix.
In any circumstances, a political campaign must be designed mindful not only of the objective it seeks to achieve but also of the impediments that will be thrown in its path by those determined that the objective will never be reached. Quite simply, it is necessary to know the enemy. I get no sense that Alyn White is even aware there is an enemy.
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