Today has seen the entry into the independence debate of the magnificently batty Vote No Borders campaign group – not on any account to be confused with the No Borders campaign group, whose aims are to “struggle against borders and immigration controls and strive for freedom of movement for all” and are therefore the very antithesis of what the British state has increasingly come to stand for.
Various puff pieces in the media have given the group free space to advertise themselves as a “grassroots” campaign that is non-party political. But the funding figures mentioned – £150,000 raised before the group had any kind of public profile at all and hope of raising another £250,000 on top – may well cause more cynical readers to detect a somewhat piscine odour.
As we’ve got our journalism hats on, let’s have a sniff.
Vote No Borders first came to our attention a couple of weeks ago whilst perusing the Electoral Commission’s register of permitted participants (which is a very handy tool). No Borders lists one Malcolm Offord as their “responsible person”, and today seems to mark his first foray into the debate.
Vote No Borders registered as a permitted participant on the 19th March 2014 – 43 days before the launch of their website. If that seems odd, No Borders only registered with Companies House on the 18th March 2014. It became a permitted participant the day after forming.
(The permitted participant address is 26 Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, despite Malcolm Offord’s address being listed as a west London postcode, and that of No Borders being listed as 24 Chiswell Street in London).
So within 44 days of forming, this “grassroots” campaign has already managed to amass funding totalling a whopping £150,000, despite having absolutely no public profile. Wow, even we’re a little jealous.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. VNB’s other stated director (and “communications advisor”) is Fiona Gilmore, director of Acanchi Ltd, whose address is, by a remarkable coincidence, also 24 Chiswell Street. (You’ll note Malcolm is also of Acanchi.)
A quick browse of Acanchi’s website sheds no light on what they actually do, other than the catch-all term “consultancy” (although it’s interesting to note that they’ve “taken on many assignments with Governments and leaders to position their countries, regions or cities in the world.”)
Fiona is also director of Flowers of Union Ltd, a company with absolutely no digital footprint to speak of despite having existed since 19th December 2013. The same address, 32-34 Great Marlborough Street, crops up in both Malcolm and Fiona’s profiles, and is listed on Acanchi’s website as their contact address.
Why mention Flowers of Union? Well, apart from the obvious bit in their name, the VNB website claims to know of a band “whose members have been working with the No Borders Campaign to create a song”. The name of this young group of enthusiastic grassroots supporters of the UK? Amazingly enough, it’s “Flowers of Union”.
We think it’s safe to say that every up-and-coming bunch of young troubadours sets itself up as a company at Companies House before making a website or releasing any songs or playing any gigs. Nothing strange there.
(As an aside, the VNB website was registered by one Gary Waple, who as well as being a director of Acanchi until last year, is currently an associate at The Prudential Regulatory Authority in… the Bank of England.)
So that’s grassroots, No-campaign style. Of course, this was all extremely complicated to find out – requiring the ability to both type some things into Google AND then click the resulting links – which is presumably why the Herald and BBC didn’t bother having a cursory glance into the campaign group’s background, to check just how “grassroots” it really is.
We’re so lucky to have such a diligent professional media, or the state of the Scottish independence debate could be a right old shambles, eh readers?