Gloves off!

It is good to see this in the Sunday National ─ Scotland is being held back by the UK’s poor economic policies. It’s about bloody time the independence movement got over the foolish aversion to negative campaigning that was inculcated during the first referendum campaign ─ principally by the SNP. As a result, the Yes campaign was depleted. It was missing a vital element which could have made a significant difference to the result.

Negative campaigning is NOT dirty campaigning unless it is dishonest. But the same can be said of positive campaigning. It is every bit as dirty if it is dishonest. At the behest of timorous creatures such as Pete Wishart we were urged and ordered no to do anything that might be seized on by the British media and used as a stick with which to beat the SNP. Of course, this pusillanimous hyper-caution did nothing to moderate the British state’s propaganda machine. Only a complete fool would suppose it might. All it did was limit the Yes campaign’s capacity to respond effectively to the dishonest negativity of the anti-independence campaign.

I have likened this prohibition on negative campaigning for fear of provoking the British media to a general being ordered not to use artillery prior to a major battle for fear the noise might upset the neighbours.

Ten years ago, the Yes campaign was all but entirely about giving people reasons to come to the Yes side. Almost nothing was done to give people reasons for leaving the No side. Those responsible for formulating and managing a new Yes campaign must learn that this exclusively positive campaigning has won all the votes it can. As is evidenced by the fact that support for Yes has flatlined since the 2014 referendum. Almost all of those persuaded by the Yes campaign ten years ago were not ‘soft Nos’ but the undecideds and undeclared independence supporters. To the extent that an on the No side were lured they were not ‘soft Nos’ but ‘soggy Nos’.

All the low-hanging fruit has been harvested. A new campaign must target ‘soft Nos’ defined as those who are beginning to harbour doubts about the Union. The new Yes campaign must target those doubts and work on them not so much to attract people to the idea of independence as to prise them away from the Union.

We have given voters a place to go and reasons aplenty to go there. The votes we need are among those who are going nowhere unless they are given a reason to leave where they are. That is what negative campaigning does. That is what the first Yes campaign lacked.

It is gratifying, therefore, to see a group of economic thinkers working on the case for abandoning the Union. I fear, however, that it may be too little too late. Especially given that Nicola Sturgeon seems intent on fighting the next Yes campaign using exactly the same strategy as ten years ago.

I am persuaded that we must have a new campaign to run alongside whatever the SNP does. It is clear that the SNP want to control the whole thing. Obviously, not everybody is willing to go along with this. If there is nowhere for these people to put their energies (and money!) they will be a wasted resource. Scotland’s cause cannot afford to squander such a massive resource.

We need an organisation. The Yes movement is fine as a movement. But movements don’t get things done. Organisations get things done. The Yes movement has given birth to a number of organisations which get things done. I’m wary of mentioning any of them because no matter which one I mention there will be some numpty with a grievance against that organisation which is bigger than their desire to restore independence.

Movements like Yes benefit from being non-hierarchical and organic. Organisations need leadership and management. The trouble with that is the same as with organisations themselves. Whoever emerges as the leader and whoever takes on the management roles there will be those who will object.

We have to get past that. Just as we have to get over the animosity towards the SNP. It is possible to disagree with the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue without hating them. It is possible to oppose some of their policies. But they are the party of government. Without them, the fight to restore Scotland’s independence is going nowhere. Not in any realistic timeframe. The non-SNP part of the Yes movement must learn to live with the SNP. I think having our own campaign to manage and participate in would help with this.

The campaign I have in mind would not duplicate the work being done by the SNP and its foot soldiers. We should seek to augment that campaign. We would be doing and saying the things that the SNP won’t say or maybe can’t say because they are the party of government.

Somebody needs to kick-start this thing. I don’t know if I’m up to it. But I’d be happy to advise and assist the right person.

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7 thoughts on “Gloves off!

  1. As you point out it may be too late. However, we must assume that it is not.

    Nicola Sturgeon did shift her position on the routes to Independence when she recently announced her 3-pronged ‘plan’. That plan, for various and well documented reasons, is flawed and probably fatally so.

    Yet if we – the ‘dissident’ Independence bloggers & commentators, SSRG & Salvo, the other pro-Independence politicos and others generally – keep up the pressure we may yet force this bull-headed, bloody-minded and controlling leadership into changing tack.

    I doubt that the FM would have changed her stance without the widespread discontent at the lack of progress and total inaction on Independence that has been bubbling under for some time and seems to be coming to the boil.

    We can engage people by enraging them – it’s not as if there’s not plenty of ammunition on the price of continued dependence (e.g. interest rates/mortgage repayments, price inflation/savings wipe-out, fuel costs/heating charges, food shortages/grocery bills etc).We can augment the nightmarish vision of continued Union with on-going and repetitive listing of the broken promises and Unionist lies of 2014.

    We can combat “Better Together” with “Broken Together” – it would be no contest i f we target the right people with the right messages.

    Let’s keep the pressure on and the momentum going.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Indeed, we must not assume that it is too late. To assume that would be to give up on Scotland’s cause. I know I can never do that.

      I know also that far too many in the Yes movement have already given up. They will insist that they haven’t. But they will do so while denying the crucial role of the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government in restoring Scotland’s independence. The SNP is broken. But it is the party of government and therefore essential as the only possible source of the effective political power without which Scotland’s cause is going nowhere. What do you do when a vital part breaks and it can’t be replaced in time to use the machine before it is condemned? Do you throw the part in the bin and walk away to spend the rest of your days whining about the poor quality of the component? Or do you try absolutely everything imaginable to make the part usable?

      These idiots will say they’ve tried everything. That is a lie. Many (most?) of them never even joined the SNP. Those that did sat back and allowed the party to be stolen from under them. I include myself in that latter category. But I am now trying to make amends for that mistake.

      The SNP isn’t the whole of the independence campaign in the same way that the spring isn’t the whole of a clockwork mechanism. If you’ve thrown away the spring, you’ve abandoned the machine.


  2. A lot has changed since 2014. The UK is not the same place it was 10 years ago and judging by the current direction of travel the differences will be even greater in two years time. Supporters of the Union, being conservative in nature, need to reflect on what exactly do they think they are preserving. Take one simple example, the number of parcels distributed by food banks, This is the UK they want to maintain.

    In addition with Truss being marketed as the new Margaret Thatcher, Unionists really should think long and hard and perhaps examine their consciences. The Great Britain of their nostalgia died a long time ago.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. I’m strongly in favour of negative campaigning against the union in the campaign. Firstly we need to put together a serious estimate of both the ongoing annual costs of the union, and the cumulative “wealth foregone” historic costs of the union to Scotland in order to explain and publicise the economic arguments against remaining in the union. Secondly we need to document breaches of the treaty of union over the years in order to further justify its dissolution. Thirdly we need to look at the direction of travel towards a right wing proto fascist unitary state being taken by westminster, and pose the question about whether we want to be a part of that.


    1. Broad strokes. No detail. The more detail there is, the more they will argue about the detail so as to cast doubt on the validity of the whole. But this is the right idea.

      Don’t let them dictate the news agenda. Remember 2014! They chose which policy areas were to be highlighted ─ defence, economy etc. They did this by holding news conferences and publishing ‘studies’ and ‘reports’. As soon as the Yes campaign looked like getting its act together on one topic, they swiftly changed to something else. We must not let that happen again. We need professionally prepared material that the media can’t ignore. And that the opposition is obliged to respond to. Hard-hitting stuff. So long as it’s honest, it can be as negative as we can make it. Negative campaigning did Better Together no harm. Although one of the myths the Yes campaign sold itself was that the negative campaigning of the No side was driving people to Yes. Shite!

      The whole thing needs to be tightly managed. Almost like a military operation. Nobody goes off-message.

      Questions! they’re the killers. Throw allegations at them in the form of questions or demands for explanation. ‘Given the Union has done x, how do you justify your continued support?’ ‘An academic study has identified no fewer than y breaches of the Union by successive British governments. Why should people trust you?’ ‘This report sets out y lies told by Better Together in the first referendum campaign. Why should people trust you?’

      DO NOT respond to their questions and accusation but turn them around. They say ‘What currency?’, you say ‘Why do you think Scotland is incapable of managing its monetary policy?’

      Never forget that the campaign is NOT about selling some vision of independence. It is about fostering doubt about the Union. Its purpose is to poke those doubts with sharp strikes until they swell and spread.

      Language matters! NEVER talk about ‘gaining’ or ‘winning’ independence. Talk only about restoring independence. DO NOT differentiate between or among the British parties. It is NOT and anti-Tory campaign. It is an anti-Union campaign.

      NEVER talk to the media! All media enquiries are referred to the campaign managers and spokespersons. Nobody outside that group speak to the media.

      Stay consistent! NEVER change the story!

      Repeat! Repeat! REPEAT! Run the campaign messages on a loop. Just keep banging home the same material until it is imprinted on voters’ minds.

      Create a list of key terms. Use them! Often! Always!

      Train activists to pick up on the issue of the day as chosen by the campaign managers and the key terms associated with those issues. Remember how phrases such as ‘economic black hole’ became ubiquitous? It’s because Unionist foot soldiers were good at picking up propaganda cues from the likes of Darling and Osborne. Every bit of material put out by the campaign should have at least one such cue ─ but no more than three.

      It’s all basic stuff, really. but it’s stuff we were pish-poor at in the 2014 campaign. And I have absolutely no confidence that the SNP (or Alba!) will do any better if there is another campaign.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yip Peter , totally agree

    ” You got to accent-u-ate the negative
    Elim-i-nate the positive
    Dispense with the affirmative
    Don’t mess with Mr. In-between ”

    In short …….positively deploy the negative .

    Two potential problems though

    Will the * Official * Campaign adhere to this strategy ?

    Will the MSM give even minimal exposure to any * Unofficial * Campaign ?


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