As we noted earlier, the Wings Over Scotland spy at last night’s “Better Together” meeting in our home town of Bathgate last night wasn’t alone. Some intrepid readers also attended the event, and recorded the whole thing to find out what the No campaign are telling people away from the scrutiny of the media.
It’s a grim watch, but we’ve picked you out some highlights.
(The sound on the video gets a bit better after the first speaker.)
Present were Blair McDougall (Labour activist and director of “Better Together”), Charles Kennedy (not that one – an unsuccessful Conservative council candidate, who was also chairing the meeting), Harry Cartmill (Labour councillor for Bathgate), Tom Kerr (Conservative councillor for Linlithgow and Provost of West Lothian), and Ruby Beattie, a local woman described as “unaffiliated” who said she didn’t normally vote but would be voting (No) in the referendum.
(Bathgate, incidentally, has been represented by a Labour MP since WW2.)
Of 41 audience members in attendance, nine have been claimed as Yes supporters.
0.23: “I firmly believe that the risk involved in independence is too great to be run… [indistinct] I believe that independence could be an economic disaster for Scotland, that would see an exodus of companies both UK and European and worldwide, based here in Scotland.”
Looks like someone hasn’t taken on board the official “positivity” message from the No campaign about how Scotland would definitely survive as a independent country, and would in fact be a “successful”, “thriving” one.
Most of the rest of Ms Beattie’s two-minute speech is too indistinct to transcribe, but so far as we could make out from the snatches that are audible, she believed that local employer Sky would leave Scotland in the event of independence, as would “hundreds if not thousands” of similar companies.
Next up, straight off a flight from London, was the celebrity.
3.23: “I’m a campaigner, I’ve always run political campaigns one way or another for the last 15 years, and I always say when I speak to audiences, I’ve always said throughout my time as a political organiser, that every vote will count in this election. And frankly it’s not always true when I say it to audiences, but it IS true this time.”
“I’ve been lying to people like you for 15 years, but I’m not doing it now. Honest.”
3.59: “The other thing I always say to people in previous campaigns is that this will be the most important Scottish vote you’ll ever cast, and again this time it happens to be true.”
“If I ever tell the truth, it’s purely by coincidence.”
7.37: “There’s a benefit in the economy of scale of being part of an economy that’s ten times bigger, part of an NHS that’s ten times bigger – “
BZZT! This is a lie. Scotland is NOT a “part of” a larger NHS. As readers of this site will already know, Scotland has its own, completely independent, NHS, and has done ever since the service’s inception in 1947. There has NEVER been a UK-wide NHS. The co-operation that exists between the health services in various parts of the UK is in fact a living demonstration of how independence would work within a social union, but outside a political one.
8.22:“Our argument is that Scotland enjoys the best of both worlds. In democratic terms we have a strong Scottish Parliament – “
BZZT! Do we? According to your own party’s deputy leader, Blair, the Scottish Parliament “is not a democratic place in the conventional sense”, and is in fact “a dictatorship of one man sitting in Bute House, who will do not what is in Scotland’s interests, but what is in his own or his party’s interests“.
That doesn’t much sound like the best of anything.
8.39: “But we also get to be part of something bigger, we also get to be part of something bigger in an unstable and uncertain world.”
Yes, a Tory government. Whoopee.
12.11:“The fact that our opponents are so desperate not to answer questions about what independence should mean should give you pause.”
Dammit, there goes another irony meter. The UK government refuses to ask the European Commission for the definitive view it has offered to give on Scotland’s EU membership. It refuses to acknowledge having any contingency plans for removing Trident from Scottish waters in the event of independence. It refuses, in fact, to discuss ANY arrangements for after a Yes vote.
And anyone who asks a question on the “Better Together” website, of course, finds themselves swiftly deleted and banned. (Go on, try it yourself.)
12.33: “I love my country every bit as much as Alex Salmond does.”
“…just not enough to let it have the government it votes for.”
There’s no way out of this one. If you’re claiming “my country” as being Scotland, then it’s a country that only gets the government its people vote for around 40% of the time. The argument constantly heard from the No camp is that Scots have a vote in electing UK governments like everyone else does, and should just shut up and accept it if their wishes get over-ruled by the much larger population of England, because that’s democracy and people in Newcastle and Manchester often get Tory governments they didn’t vote for either.
That’s fine, but it only works if you’re saying that your “country” is the UK. The minute you identify Scotland as being a country in its own right, that argument disintegrates. Regions of a country have to accept the overall will. Countries should get the governments they vote for. And if you think your country should be a unique exception to that fundamental rule of democracy, then you simply DON’T love it as much as Alex Salmond loves his.
(Seriously, can anyone name us any other place in the world that’s generally regarded as a “country”, with recognised international sports teams and the like, but which doesn’t get to choose its own governments?)
12.39: “I just don’t think that being Scottish means being with Alex Salmond.”
Then when there’s an election vote for someone else, dopey.
18.27: “Croatia HAS to join the Euro.”
Simple, definitive, unambiguous, but unfortunately a complete lie. Every new EU member, like Croatia, has to commit to the Euro as an abstract principle (much like every UN member state is committed to not torturing people, but then does anyway), but no member can ever be made to join the currency, nor does the EU have any interest in attempting to force any member to.
23.00: “Ultimately, breaking up the Union and [indistinct] is a gamble, it’s a BIG gamble. Will it work? I don’t believe it’ll work, I have never been convinced it’ll work, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
[Cllr Cartmill is in fact standing up at this point.]
23.12: “I also think, who’s going to run the country after? If we were to lose this vote, who would run the country after it? Would it be Alex Salmond, would it be Nicola Sturgeon, who would be the people that would run it?”
Um, do we need to have the “elections” talk again?
23.17: “Would you, would everyone in this room have the faith in those who are in the Scottish Parliament at the moment to run the country? Some might, some won’t.”
We have to admit, readers, we’re not quite sure what’s going on here. Is Cllr Cartmill conceding the 2016 Holyrood election to the SNP already? Or is he in fact reinforcing our dark suspicion that the main Labour strategy for a No vote is “For God’s sake don’t vote for independence in case the terrifyingly useless diddies Labour’s got in Holyrood somehow end up in charge of anything”?
It’s not a very logical strategy, of course, because in the event of independence what passes for Labour’s Scottish talent would be out of a job at Westminster and would likely end up at Holyrood, displacing most of the current D-team, but the party does seem to be struggling for anything better.
It’s also quite odd to portray Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon being in charge of the country as a daunting prospect. Bathgate is a Labour stronghold, but pretty much every poll ever conducted on the subject shows that the people of Scotland hold the FM and his deputy as the most trusted politicians anywhere in the British Isles. After four years in minority power at Holyrood they were returned in a landslide, and the poll ratings have barely flinched since.
Screaming “Vote No or Salmond and Sturgeon will be in charge!” seems to be a strategy unblessed with historic success. Maybe they should try putting “Now that the Tories are back” in front of it.
23.37: “I’m not a gambler, I don’t want to gamble on the future, and I do believe we’re better together.”
We’re not sure we’ll ever understand why a Labour politician in Scotland would regard the 60% chance of getting a Tory government regardless of how Scotland voted as NOT being a gamble. You get better odds at roulette.
At this point Tom Kerr stepped up and our will to live ran out. We’re still only halfway through the video, and we’ve had to leave whole chunks of it out because it was vague, waffling, disingenuous swarm-of-wasps stuff impossible to take apart in less than about 20,000 words. But tune in later for part 2, if you and we can bear it.