The following started as a response to a comment on Fecaboko about – among other things – the futility of looking back on the mistakes of the past.
It’s futile unless there are lessons that might stand us in good stead. The “positive reassuring” approach has been tried. Let me remind you that polling for Yes has flatlined since 2014. To whatever extent the Yes campaign continued through that time – and it did – it was that “positive reassuring” strategy continuing from the first campaign.
If you’re doing the same thing and it has evidently ceased to have any effect, it would seem sensible to try something different. Unfortunately, the SNP has spent eight years refusing to listen to arguments for a different approach and crushing all discussion of reframing the issue. Because the bulk of the Yes campaign takes its lead from the SNP, there has been no effective challenge to the party’s short-sighted and ill-thought strategy.
Ten years ago we were instructed and encouraged to fight only half a campaign. We were prohibited from doing anything that looked even vaguely like negative campaigning for fear of upsetting a voter or two. Which, as I pointed out numerous times in private and stated publicly after the vote, was a bit like telling the generals not to use their artillery prior to a major assault lest the noise disturb the neighbours.
Ten years ago we took a pillow to a sword fight. We’re looking like taking that same pathetic pillow to the coming gunfight.
At various times over the last eight years, there has been the odd burst of enthusiasm for reframing or at least some change to the SNP’s favoured approach – the approach its internal campaign machine is accustomed to using to win elections. The party leadership and management developed a strategy of taking these movements for change and putting them at the centre of some ‘initiative’. The said initiative would then slowly merge with the wallpaper never to be seen or heard from again.
It’s almost certainly too late now. But we need an anti-Union campaign. We need to tap into people’s anger. Because it is anger which overcomes doubt, not gentle persuasion.
Visibility is key. And audibility. The opposition has TV and radio and the mainstream press. We have the streets, the halls and the web. To date, almost all the focus has been on whining about the opposition’s advantage. What good has that done? Instead, we should have been developing our own tools of communication. Unfortunately, the SNP doesn’t like – really doesn’t like! – anything it doesn’t have entirely under its control. Hence, the smear campaigns against the Yes movement’s most powerful non-SNP voices. Combined with the promotion of the SNP’s own through The National Newspaper.
Hence also Sturgeon’s decision to issue a cease and desist order stopping all campaigning during the worst of the pandemic. Another massive opportunity missed. Lockdown gave us a captive online audience. The tools to reach that audience were readily available and improving at a phenomenal pace. We had the people with the required skills. Sturgeon threw all of that away. Why? Because there is little doubt it would have given rise to a powerful political force not under the SNP’s control.
At the launch of a single-issue political campaign, it is vital to know where you are as well as where it is you want to end up. The SNP hasn’t a clue where the fight to restore Scotland’s independence lies at the moment because the party has never done the necessary analysis. The Yes movement hasn’t a clue because it has been lying to itself as well as being deceived by the SNP. Independence is inevitable! LIE! We’ve never been closer to independence! LIE! Sturgeon and the SNP are building support for Yes! LIE!
It stands to reason that if you don’t know where you are you can’t possibly plot a path to where you want to go. Even if where you’re headed is the correct destination – which isn’t true at the moment – there’s no way to work out a route when you have no clear idea of the starting point. There are lots of people who think they know where we are. There are lots of people who think they know what the destination is. There are lots of people who think they know the best route. The trouble is, you can never get more than two out of the three to agree at the same time.
The keywords for a single-issue political campaign are SOLIDARITY! FOCUS! DISCIPLINE! The Yes campaign has none of these.
Yes campaigners don’t like to hear all this, of course. The messenger gets abused. The message doesn’t get so much as a moment’s thought.
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