One of the most commonly-observed facets of the independence referendum so far has been the lack of a proper grassroots “Better Together” campaign, and as a historian of Scottish popular politics I’ve found myself pondering why there wasn’t one.
It’s not like there aren’t thousands of Scots who passionately believe in the Union and will be voting No, and are perfectly capable of arguing their case. We all know some – I certainly do, both family and friends. But there’s no organised grassroots campaigning of any serious note. Tiny handfuls of Labour activists, some of them shipped up from England and paid, have done almost all of the donkey work so far.
But as a historian of Scottish popular politics I should have an explanation, shouldn’t I? And when I had a think about it, something occurred to me.
There’s something fascinating about the latest “No Thanks” leaflet that’s slithering its way through letterboxes in Scotland this week, and it’s not the empty sloganising it deploys in lieu of an argument. (“We’re better together because best of both worlds!”)
It’s this graph.
This story from earlier this month is now the third most-read in Wings history. But there was an aspect of the revelations in the Future Of England survey that we didn’t touch on, and it’s worth picking up now.
“Voters in England are also inclined to support greater autonomy for a post-No Scotland than do the pro-union parties. For instance, 42% of people in England support the idea that ‘The Scottish Parliament should be given control over the majority of taxes raised in Scotland’, something that only 25% disagree with.
This would appear to place people in England at the maximal end of the various proposals that have been put forward for further-reaching Scottish devolution, and significantly beyond the modest reform proposals put forward by the Labour Party.”
And that’s quite an interesting finding, because it means that Scottish Labour – the self-proclaimed “party of devolution” – now actually wants LESS tax-raising power for the Scottish Parliament than just about anyone else anywhere in the entire UK.
Here’s “Better Together” chief Blair McDougall in today’s Herald:
“Launching the [#PatronisingBTLady] video yesterday, Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: ‘The key factor for people isn’t the love of our country – as both Yes and No voters love Scotland. The key factor is the love of our families.’“
Let’s just read that through again. He’s saying that his campaign can’t use “love of our country” as a campaign weapon because people on both sides love their country. So instead he’s going to use “love of our families” as a distinguishing characteristic.
The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from those statements is that Yes supporters don’t love their families. It’s a bold gambit, we’ll give him that.
Several papers today report that “Better Together” are filing a complaint with the BBC about the audience at Monday’s debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, alleging bias in both audience composition and question selection – claiming that 10 questions favoured the Yes side to only three favouring No.
We’re not really sure how a question can favour either side, but the sour-grapes move does raise an interesting issue, which we’re going to illustrate with an example from the debate the BBC ran the following evening in Edinburgh.
(Help keep this vital news outlet broadcasting here.)
The website of the Dumfries & Galloway Conservative Party yesterday:
Perhaps they read the press coverage of the Salmond-Darling debate later on.
We almost forgot to mention this.
Not for the first time, readers, you’ve left us gobsmacked sideways. Despite previous successes we were a little apprehensive about this latest fundraiser, as people have been getting asked for a lot of money by a lot of groups in recent months, and we were a bit worried that everyone might have donation fatigue or simply be skint.
That apprehension lasted two and a half hours.
The key exchange on currency from last night’s debate:
At the end of the clip, a flustered Darling finally blurts out what the No camp have been trying not to admit for the entire campaign: “Of course we could use the pound”.
Unionists and journalists are now frantically spinning that they’d never denied such a thing. But we know that’s not true, and nobody got left with more egg on their face than Mr Darling’s supposed superior, Scottish Labour “leader” Johann Lamont.