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Wings Over Scotland

Counting virus spreads

Posted on June 09, 2013 by

As veteran readers will know, there’s little this site enjoys more than investigating the Comical Ali-style claims made by the No campaign about the attendance figures at its events, which it typically likes to exaggerate by between 100% and 150%.


Disturbingly, though, the contagion which robs victims of basic counting powers seems to be infectious, and taking hold even beyond the bounds of “Better Together”.

In what’s actually a rather good piece overall, Tom Gordon writes in today’s Sunday Herald of Alistair Darling’s tumultuously-received speech to a fringe event at the Scottish Conservatives conference on Saturday. (The former Labour Chancellor went down far better than the Tories’ own leader Ruth Davidson.) But the second paragraph of the article made us pause:

“Speaking as the leader of the Better Together campaign, Darling was cheered and thanked profusely by around 200 delegates after defending the Union at a packed meeting on the fringe of the Tory conference in Stirling.”

Given that a leader elsewhere in the same paper gave attendance at the entire conference at only 200 or so, and considerably fewer had turned up to see Davidson shortly earlier, it struck us as a bit unlikely that a fringe event in a side room would have a capacity equal to that of the main hall. So we did a little digging.

The official “Better Together” Twitter feed has perhaps finally learned that it might not necessarily be the smartest move to make outlandish assertions and then provide the evidence disproving them in the same tweet, so it kept pretty quiet. The Scottish Conservatives’ account, however, was more helpful.


Both the images in this article were tweeted by the @ScotTories account (here and here). From the position of the lighting rig (at the far right of the second shot and centre left in the first), you can see that between them they cover the entire room.

The pics appear to show around 12 people to a row in eight or nine rows of seats, for a total of 96 or 108, with maybe another 15 or 16 standing against the back wall. That’s a maximum of 124, which is stretching the definition of “almost 200”, we would suggest, some way beyond any reasonable breaking point.

In fact, thanks to an alert reader and a bit more sleuthing we managed to establish that the fringe meeting was held at the Highland Hotel in Stirling, as confirmed by Associated Press here. Our pictures show that “Better Together” used the MacLaren Suite, which the hotel’s brochure says has a maximum capacity of 120.

Wings Over Scotland readers will of course already be used to treating any figures reported in the Scottish media with a degree of, let’s say, healthy scepticism. And we suspect that the motivation for what appears to be a considerable exaggeration by Tom Gordon wasn’t an anti-independence one. (It could quite plausibly, for example, have been chiefly intended to embarrass either Alistair Darling or Ruth Davidson.)

But what we’re more curious about is why, if the Herald’s report that “more than 400 protesters clamoured noisily outside against Tory welfare cuts yesterday, behind the security line less than half that number of delegates rattled around a hall that exposed their low numbers” is true, nobody’s bothered to publish any pictures of those.

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68 to “Counting virus spreads”

  1. handclapping says:

    I like the expression of the man with the stick (7 from L) as he realises that yes it is that Alistair Darling. 🙂

  2. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    How many are under 50?
    Could be a Sidney Devine Concert?

  3. Broon says:

    So, a maximum of 124 attendees of whom a number were employed to be there and could not be regarded as “Tory members”
    e.g, 3 to 5 technical assistants (cameras. lights etc) another 5 to 10 members of the press / media and also possibly a couple of security people.
    If you make a deduction for empty seats you are lucky to get to 100

  4. Yesitis says:

    They look like they are ready to fight with their head, heart, body and soul in defense of the union.
    Mon then!
    Without their big bully-boy compliant mainstream media friends spreading their unionist scatter-gun shite, these unionist types are just rabbits in the headlights.

  5. HandandShrimp says:

    Actually considering the Tories hold Brown and Darling responsible for the UK economic dire straits it is amazing there are any there….or least any without eggs and tomatoes. Just goes to show that the true enemy are Scots that want independence.

  6. Andy Anderson says:

    Well I was one of the noisy demonstrators outside. Now I am no expect at calculating numbers in a crowd but I was near the front of the demonstration and there must have been 100 to 150 in front of us. I could not see the end of the demo but it was certainly at least 1000 yard behind us and we were about 6 abreast. We must have outnumbered the conference delegates by about 3 or 4 to 1.

  7. Marcia says:

    the woman 2nd Left : ‘this day out from the Nursing Home isn’t right  – the Matron said it would better if we stay together for lunch. I’m hungry.  Who is this tomboy in this play?’

  8. CameronB says:

    I don’t mean to be ageist, but is this the future of Scotland that turned out to see the ‘Darling One’?

  9. You can probably write off around 30 of that 124 as being press as well.

  10. Bobby Mckail says:

    Getting pretty pissed at Andy Kerr on Sunday politics advocating that the Unionist parties are for “More powers” when they blatantly are not. Kerr even tried present that those parties that are offering “more powers” have put the SNP on the back foot!?
    Democracy in Scotland is being undermined by the BBC and it’s a disgrace to the people of this Nation.

  11. Hetty says:

    O/T sorry, but just saw on Bella Caledonia that they are promoting a project to make a film about Edinburgh the ‘divided city’. Guess who is raising some funds for it by trying to be funny? Susan Calman. Is she not the one who is anti independence and tweeted some non existent comments against her person supposedly by an Independence Supporter? What’s going on here I wonder.

  12. Dorothy Devine says:

    OT but its time we all learned the words and tune of Willie McBride so that we could sing a rousing protest at the disgusting idea of ” celebrating” the start of a war that killed a generation of the young of Scotland.
    I am ashamed of the cretins in the GCC who are so ” thrilled” about this.

  13. I’ve been trying this counting method with my boss.
    Him: How many of those reports did you get done this week?
    Me (looks at finished pile of five): At least twenty.
    Him: Great!
    You guys should try it, it makes life far easier.

  14. mato21 says:

                  Willie McBride
    Did they beat the drum slowly did they play the fife lowly,
    did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
    did the band play the last post and chorus,
    did the pipes play the “Flowers of the Forest”

    Well how do you do young Willie McBride?
    do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside
    and rest for a while ‘neath the warm summer sun
    I’ve been walkin’ all day and I’m nearly done
    I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
    when you joined the great fallen of 1916
    Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
    Willie McBride was it slow and obscene CHORUS

    And the beautiful wife or the sweetheart for life
    in some faithful heart are you forever enshrined
    and although you died back in 1916
    in that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
    or are you a stranger without even a name
    enshrined forever behind a glass pane
    in an ould photograph torn tattered and stained,
    fading to yellow in a brown leather frame? CHORUS

    Now the sun shines down on the green fields of France
    a warm summer wind makes the red poppys dance
    The trenches have vanished under the plows,
    there’s no gas no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now
    but here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s land,
    the countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
    for man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
    to a whole generation that was butchered and damned CHORUS

    Now Willie McBride I can’t help wonder why
    Do those who lie here do they know why they died
    Did they really believe when they answered the call
    did they really believe that this war would end wars
    Forever this song of suffereing and shame
    the killing the dying was all done in vain
    for young Willie McBride it’s all happened again,
    and again, and again, and again and again

  15. Jim Mitchell says:

    Does anybody else get the feeling that there was more than just a touch of scene stealing about the whole thing? I mean Alistair becomes head of propaganda for Better Together, including the Tories, then up pops Gordon, his best pal in all the world not) speaking up for another, just Labour this time, organisation and ally is side lined for a bit, next thing we know up he pops at the Tories annual conference as guest speaker, not just thatm but his mob, BT are touting yet another new organisation supposedly supporting the armed forces.
    To me it smacks of my organisation is bigger and better than yours Gordon, no it’s not Ally!
    Which can only be good for the YES campaign.
    I would love to know if Ally asked to speak at the conference or if he was invited, does anyone out there have the answer?

  16. Jim Mitchell says:

    Aye when you try to achieve your aims over the bones of the dead it  says it all about you!

  17. Marcia says:

    A reminder to all that STV will be repeating the documentary The Road to the Referendum tonight at 7 pm tonight. It was shown on Tuesday evening but a lot of you did not see it because of a technical fault.

  18. Jock McDonnell says:

    Yeah, we have probably all noticed the subtle attempt to pretend more powers are on the agenda, when of course we know it will be hee haw & also as some have noticed, the overt unionism of certain supermarket displays. I don’t think we are paranoid, the time is coming where Yes is going to have to start calling the unionists out. No point in pretending BBC is other than unionist. At least make people consider the possibility.

  19. Adrian B says:

    Marcia says:
    9 June, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    A reminder to all that STV will be repeating the documentary The Road to the Referendum tonight at 7 pm tonight. It was shown on Tuesday evening but a lot of you did not see it because of a technical fault.
    Except for viewers in the ITV Border region who get “Tipping Point: Lucky stars”? 

  20. southernscot says:

    Sad News folks Iain Banks has died

  21. Boorach says:

    Talking of supermarket displays, I particularly like the banners which have been appearing around Lidl car parks.
    on one side is the question ‘Seen the light yet?’
    on the other ‘Scotland, we’re with you’.
    may be wishful thinking but I’m happy to think it!

  22. Frazer Allan Whyte says:

    Thankyou Dorothy Devine & mato21 – maybe this WWI obscenity will remind Scots they should  take care that they never again become cannon fodder for imperialist ambitions and incompetence. Mr Hague seems hell bent on throwing oil on Syrian fires as he missed “his” war(s) by not making it to prime minister like the rest. Is it a requirement for a Westminster PM to start a war? Or at least make sandwiches for Americans while they do? And if Tony Blair can be considered a war criminal wasn’t BT leader Alistair D his right hand man? Why is he roaming around with impunity? How could any decent Scot even consider trusting their fates to such self-satisified thugs? And how could any Scot – no matter how Anglophobe – want to inflict the likes of Scots like Haig and Darling on  the poor folks down south? The “Empire ” is now in its fourth! Afghan war and losing it like all the others. Be sure “NO” means Scots maimed and dying in English wars for no good reason at all.

  23. Frazer Allan Whyte
    Sorry to make this point on an otherwise fair statement. But I thought Haig is a yorkshireman born and (inter)bred!

  24. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Hague is a Yorkshire man,  Haig was the butcher of WW I (Poppy Haig)

  25. velofello says:

    @ Dorothy Devine, so very very appropriate.
    Jeannie, one of the stalwarts here, once posted that looking at her teenage son going off to play sport she reflected, that a hundred years ago he could have been going off to WW1. We need to take control of our lives and welfare back to Scotland.

  26. Nkosi says:

    Thankfully they don’t get to count the votes in the ballot box, they don’t do they ?

  27. Bugger (the Panda)
    Sorry, I realised about 10 minutes after posting. Yep Haig the butcher as opposed to; Hague the slaphead!

  28. ianbrotherhood says:

    @Dorothy Devine-
    If the second part of Road to the Referendum reflects the trailer, we’ll see Iain Banks stating that he wants independence if for no other reason than we must never ever again be drawn into an Iraq-type scenario.
    I’m sure he would like his many fans, and those unfamiliar with his work, to see such a bold statement from the man just days after he’s left us – an apt parting shot at the warmongers who will do anything to thwart this big dream we share.

  29. Haartime says:

    Maybe we could all sing Willie McBride at 2014 rally, 1000s of voices in unison commemorating the dead of WW1 and all wars since while looking forward to a new Scotland

  30. The Man in the Jar says:

    I don’t want to make light about a serious subject but. Regarding Haig and Darling I think that it is time that Baldric made them a cup of his capachino!

  31. Vronsky says:

    Sassoon, speaking of the fools of his time.  And ours, sadly. 
     The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
    And cackle at the show, while prancing ranks
    Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
    ‘We’re sure the Kaiser loves our dear old Tanks!’ 
    I’d like to see a tank come down the stalls,
    Lurching to rag-time tunes, or ‘Home sweet Home’,
    And there’d be no more jokes in music-halls
    To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume. 

  32. Geoff Huijer says:

    I’d like to know why there was live coverage of the Scottish Conservatives
    conference on BBC Scotland when they are clearly a minority party?
    Why doesn’t every party with at least one MP get the same coverage?
    One MP? And they get live coverage of their conference? WTF?

  33. Lin Anderson says:

    This is the Stirling Highland Hotel. Both rooms there, this one I recognise, hold 100 people. That’s the limit for an event.

  34. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    120 according to this site, so near enough and pretty much in line with my guess:

  35. Vronsky says:

    Did my best to get the line ends in the right place. Failed.  So look here:

  36. ianbrotherhood says:

    An article from NNS, in case anyone missed it.
    This is beyond satire, beyond the pale, whatever you want to call it…incredible.

  37. JLT says:

    That first photo is a tad on the dark side (very dark actually).
    Is it ….
    1. To protect Alistair Darling (like …hide him as they do in TV interviews and place the person in a dark room, and give him a false voice, so as to protect him from a lynching)
    2. To hide the real number of attendees
    It’s …a hard one to call…..

  38. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Have now established that the event took place in the hotel’s MacLaren Suite, which has a stated maximum capacity of 120, and edited the piece accordingly. Excellent tippery, Lin Anderson.

  39. scottish_skier says:

    Interesting. A fringe meeting at a fringe party conference. Not something I’ve personally seen before. Looks like, well, what you might expect it to.

  40. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Well I was one of the noisy demonstrators outside. Now I am no expect at calculating numbers in a crowd but I was near the front of the demonstration and there must have been 100 to 150 in front of us. I could not see the end of the demo but it was certainly at least 1000 yard behind us and we were about 6 abreast. We must have outnumbered the conference delegates by about 3 or 4 to 1.”

    First rule of demonstrations: TAKE PICTURES.


  41. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Interesting. A fringe meeting at a fringe party conference”

    Actually, going by the numbers, the main conference was the actual fringe event…

  42. scottish_skier says:

    Hi Lin. Good to see you posting. I’ll have to mind my language now 😉

    Heard Radio Scotland talking about Bloody Scotland the other day. Good for something at least.

  43. JLT says:

    To me it smacks of my organisation is bigger and better than yours Gordon, no it’s not Ally!
    I think you are right on the money on this…seriously, where’s Gordon now? He pops out of the blue for one day and then vanishes again.
    This last week has been an utter disaster for the Better Together mob…
    1. Alistair Darling decides to speak at the Tory conference (Bevan and Hardie must be turning in their graves)
    2. The Unions themselves, must be ill to the core on this one. How can they back Darling at a Tory conference; the Tories, the very party that wants to shaft the poor, the middle classes, the NHS, the Scots, and the very Unions themselves. This has to be sticking in their craw. Surely, they must be getting close to the point of ‘F*** this …and F*** New Labour. We WILL back Labour, but only in an independent Scotland’
    3. David Cameron comes up to Scotland, speaks a load of drivels, and backs Ruth Davidson as the perfect person for the Tories in Scotland (aye, right …sure he does!)
    4. If I’ve got this right, Ruthie (yesterday and today) has asked for more Tax Powers for Scotland in the event of a ‘No’ vote …which once again, puts her at loggerheads with Cameron and Co.
    5. Ed Balls (such a perfect name) …back’s Osborne’s Austerity Plans. (Guy is clueless)
    6. Ed Milliband (*^£$”$%%) …back’s the Tories, and says they have been right all along (David Milliband must be p*shing himself laughing at his younger brother’s f***-ups. Bet he is glad now, that he went to the States.)
    And that was just last week !!!! Makes you wonder what is going to happen this week!!!

  44. Jeannie says:

     Heard Radio Scotland talking about Bloody Scotland the other day. Good for something at least.
    I went to Bloody Scotland last year.  Really enjoyed it and looking forward to going back this year.

  45. Lin Anderson says:

    Bloody Scotland celebrates our other cultural export, crime writing. It take place in Stirling this year 13-15th September. It won a prestigious thistle award central east region for best cultural event 2012, its first year. Launched at the Deanston Distillery on 5th June,  it celebrates all that is great in Scottish Crime Writing and its international impact. Only one year old we have international stars knocking at our door. Lee Child and Jo Nesbo coming plus a host of Scottish and UK crime writers. Check out Takes place at Stirling Highland hotel and Albert Halls.

  46. Big Al says:

    Did having 200 people in a 120 people room not invalidate the hotel’s insurance policy? Imagine if there had been a fire or the floor collapsed? Who would of been responsible? Would such a tragedy and subsequent enquiry of been made public? I think I should contact the Hotel and find out…

  47. Dorothy Devine says:

    Good to have the words Mato21 ,and for the idea of singing it at the September rally Haartime.
    The Corries on youtube can teach everyone the tune and thousands of voices raised would have impact.
    Pity the rally isn’t in George Square – but the square  isn’t big enough for what I imagine is going to be even bigger than last year.

  48. The Rough Bounds says:

    Next time the Tories want a Labour stooge to attend one of their hotel conferences why don’t they ask along Mike Watson, aka Baron Watson of Invergowrie.
    Remember him? He’s the digusting little reptile who was found guilty in 2005 of fire raising in 2004 when he tried to burn down the Prestonfield hotel that was full of guests at the time.

  49. Derick Tulloch says:

    This from LVFI facebook page – Stirling.  Not the best filming you ever saw but an idea. 4-500 I would guess.


  50. cynicalHighlander says:

    I’d of thought that the History room would of been more appropriate.

  51. Neil MacKenzie says:

    This is counterproductive, your time would better spent on something else, something positive.

  52. Stuart Black says:

    No, it is not counterproductive, for too long these people have told lie after lie without comeback, some of them gigantic and with far-reaching consequences.
    Pointing out their serial mendacity results in folks questioning what they are being told, as opposed to the unthinking acceptance of recent times. The size of the audience may seem trivial to you, but think of it as a sort of zero tolerance, the more small and petty lies are exposed, the harder it becomes to succeed with big lies.

  53. Another London Dividend says:

    According to the Scots Independent 200 turned up for the launch of the Edinburgh Southern YES campaign in that Tory heartland, Morningside.

  54. ianbrotherhood says:

    Maria Miller, UK Culture Minister, on GMS, confirmed the opening ‘event’ of the WW1 commemorations will be in Glasgow Cathedral on Aug 4th next year.

  55. Dee says:

    The pro unionists must have looked back at events that happened with the year ending with a 14 in it. And so to come up with a commemoration of the start of a war that destroyed so many families across Scotland and the world is absolutely disgusting, and BBC Scotland are in on the act.  They will push this propaganda for all its worth, the lot of them should be openly criticised and it should be shown as nothing more than an anti independence stunt. I feel sick and embarrassed that they are playing tug of war with people’s emotions like this..

  56. The Man in the Jar says:

    I hope that there is a demo against this. As a veteran I would like to attend and protest. I must take a look at Veterans for Yes.

  57. ianbrotherhood says:

    Kin right.
    If enough of us, pro-Indy or not, make clear how disgusted we are by these proposed events, perhaps we can make them think again.
    If it does go ahead? Massive protest guaranteed.

  58. The Man in the Jar says:

    Massive demo. Use this against them and show them for the opportunist parasites that they are.
    No chance that they will think again!

  59. Clydebuilt says:

    Haartime says:
    9 June, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Maybe we could all sing Willie McBride at 2014 rally, 1000s of voices in unison commemorating the dead of WW1 and all wars since while looking forward to a new Scotland
    Great Idea!

  60. mato21 says:

    Just came across this though it might be of interest


    Lyrics: Stephen L. Suffet, This is the reply that Willie McBride gives to Eric Bogle. The song is set to the same tune as The Green Fields Of France , and what a great tribute it is to Eric’s song . I wonder has this reply to a song been done this way before ?

    My dear friend Eric, this is Willie McBride,
    Today I speak to you across the divide,
    Of years and of distance of life and of death,
    Please let me speak freely with my silent breath.

    You might think me crazy, you might think me daft,
    I could have stayed back in Erin, where there wasn’t a draft,
    But my parents they raised me to tell right from wrong,
    So today I shall answer what you asked in your song.

    Yes, they beat the drum slowly, they played the pipes lowly,
    And the rifles fired o’er me as they lowered me down,
    The band played “The Last Post” in chorus,
    And the pipes played “The Flowers of the Forest.”

    Ask the people of Belgium or Alsace-Lorraine,
    If my life was wasted, if I died in vain.
    I think they will tell you when all’s said and done,
    They welcomed this boy with his tin hat and gun.

    And call it ironic that I was cut down,
    While in Dublin my kinfolk were fighting the Crown.
    But in Dublin or Flanders the cause was the same:
    To resist the oppressor, whatever his name.

    Yes, they beat the drum slowly…,,,.

    It wasn’t for King or for England I died,
    It wasn’t for glory or the Empire’s pride.
    The reason I went was both simple and clear:
    To stand up for freedom did I volunteer.

    It’s easy for you to look back and sigh,
    And pity the youth of those days long gone by,
    For us who were there, we knew why we died,
    And I’d do it again, says Willie McBride.


  61. callum says:

    @neil – “This is counter productive, etc”
    One thing for sure is that unlike previous elections, every step of the journey to the 2014 referendum will be mapped out in various blogs and online articles.  Budding researchers and historians should be recording all of this right now – because whichever way the referendum goes then there will be a huge demand to “know why” and I imagine that people who have kept all the detail and sources will have the material for thesis, book-deal, you name it.

  62. Frazer Allan Whyte says:

    To Richard Bruce – Haig was born in Charlotte SquareEdinburgh – he was not an aristocrat by birth, or even landed gentry.His father John Haig – an irascible alcoholic – was middle class (“in trade”), and  head of the family’s successful Haig & Haig whisky distillery …- took this particular info from Wikipedia.
    Not all Scotland’s huge number of human exports and their descendants have been a blessing to the countries of their exile – or to the subject races and colonial levies of the empire many Scots so enthusiastically served. As a real country, not a fairy tale land, part of a nation’s maturity is accepting and examining all of its past, the good and the bad,and learning from it so as not to make the same mistakes again. One very clear lesson is that the United Kingdom has not been a “good thing” and that it gave/gives far too many vicious incompetents the opportunity to   damage the rest of the world. They need to be confined in a smaller space where they are known for exactly who and what they are and so never have the chance to wreak the destruction they would should they be given a voice in a country “punching above its weight.”

  63. Agreed 100%
    I hope you don’t think I’m Anti-Indy!
    My family have supported independence since 1966. My Grandfather (William Bruce), served as a signalman in The Great War, when they used flags! Injured by  shell burst, left a wound you could fit your fist in. My Father served from 1939-1945, Artillery, then 8th Army as an infantryman. He supported independence up to his death in 1996. I think he and his family served their time. And I am voting YES in 2014. This celebration of the start of a war is disgusting, I am truly shocked.

  64. TheBannerBlue says:

    The idea of the singing protest is hugely appealing and indeed would be very effective.  Care should be taken not to infer any slight to our troops, many of whom are still engaged in the illegal war, not of their making. A peaceful, civilized glorious rebuke, free of chippy chanting or banner waving (except for YES flags obviously) would be impossible to misrepresent. It MUST be orderly and positive – not reactionary or back-footed. Get a good choirmaster and a range of gentle, positive Scottish songs and any other anti-war poetry or readings. Get the pro-Indy veterans along too. Having lost family members in WWI and my father seriously injured in WWII, I’ll be there!

  65. James Westland says:

    TheBannerBlue: Maybe some words from the recent past would be in order regarding a protest:
    ” And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.”  The great Jimmy Reid of course.
    And of course, we should be remembering John Maclean in all this. But thats another story.

  66. AlexMontrose says:

    Comicall Ali? shurely shome mishtake, Comical Ally.

  67. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    I wonder if we could get Eric Bogle over to do it, en masse, at the last rally before the Commonwealth games?

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