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Wings Over Scotland

Failure to engage

Posted on February 06, 2014 by

For some time now, we’ve been documenting a couple of intriguing aspects of the No campaign. One is its apparent shortage of grassroots activists, leaving “Better Together” to instead rely on the Scottish and UK media to get its message out. The other is a reluctance to engage in public debate with adults.


Where BT has deigned to participate in public hustings at all, the bulk of the events have been those at schools and colleges. Invited to debate independence in front of crowds of grown-ups, the No camp is oddly reticent, as we discovered ourselves last year when we offered to pay for and set up a head-to-head, with a neutral and mutually-approved chair, between respective campaign figureheads Dennis Canavan and Alistair Darling, getting only abuse in response.

Of course, a bunch of evil cybernats such as ourselves might expect to be rebuffed. But what if the cuddly, respectable official Yes Scotland organisation had a go?

Because “Better Together” isn’t all that keen on informal clashes either. Since last summer we’ve been recording its attempts to get Yes Scotland events closed down or banned altogether, usually on the grounds that BT isn’t sending anyone along to make the No case. We’ve even seen occasions of direct threats or actual physical violence used against Yes campaigners.

So when Yes Glasgow activist, Cowdenbeath by-election candidate and SNP member Natalie McGarry started trying to arrange a friendly debate in Scotland’s biggest city last year, she might have felt that in making such modest demands of the No camp’s manpower – a couple of people for a platform and a few leaflets for publicity – in such a controlled and safe setting, she’d have a bit more luck.

Four months on, though, the story was a familiar one.


3 October 2013
Natalie McGarry to Rob Shorthouse
(“Better Together” Director of Communications):


I am writing on behalf of Yes Glasgow to ask if you could put me in contact with a counterpart in Glasgow from the No campaign with whom I can discuss hosting a joint public meeting/debate with for the new year.

I am willing to do most of the work in sourcing a venue and we can agree a neutral chair. Obviously the representatives of either side are entirely up to them. I suggest three from either side to broaden out the debate. I would also suggest, informally, that some consideration is given to gender balance

I note with interest your actions in contacting national broadcasters this week regarding a public debate, so I am sure that you are committed to public accountability and access to information.

I appreciate that your public launch in Glasgow was by registration only, but I would not support a similar approach to a joint public meeting. Openness and transparency are key going forward in this debate and I’d moot we should make it as easy as possible for people to access information.

The dates I have in mind are either the 23rd or 30th of January. Given the Yes Glasgow launch attracted over 700 persons, booking a large venue would be appropriate as it would be good to accommodate as many of the public as possible.

I anticipate that promoting the event would be a joint responsibility and not limited to online websites, but in mailings and a poster campaign. Would you support this endeavour?

Do you have a budget for public meetings, and would you be amenable to joint funding the cost of hosting the event?

Last, but not least, in addition to the debate, we support hosting stalls for organisations who would like to come along. For example, on the Yes side of the debate that would include organisations like Women For Independence and National Collective among others.

Clearly you are not the correct person to discuss this as it is a local issue. however, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, and your passing my email to the correct person at your earliest convenience.

Wearing my other hat, Women For Independence would like to organise a one day women’s round table supported by the third sector and culminating in a debate. We envisage this at some point in March. Who is the best person to contact about coming together to discuss the viability of this?

Kind regards

To Blair McDougall
(“Better Together” Campaign Director)


Please see below forwarded email to Rob Shorthouse.

I hope that one or other of you can assist me with the correct person to contact to organise this.

To Kayleigh Harvey
(“Better Together” full-time Organiser for Glasgow)


I have been given your contact details as a local area coordinator for Better Together in Glasgow. 

Please see below an email I addressed to Rob Shorthouse yesterday as I already had his email. As yet I have had no response, but hope you can help me move this forward. 

Kind regards

Natalie McGarry

On behalf of Yes Glasgow

To Rob Murray
(“Better Together” National Campaign Organiser (Grassroots):


Please see below an email I addressed to Rob Shorthouse yesterday as I already had his email. As yet I have had no response, but hope you can help me move this forward. 

Your name has been supplied to me as a coordinator of local campaigns, so in fact you are probably the correct person to direct me to the coordinator of the campaign in Glasgow. Someone has suggested Kayleigh Harvey, so I have forwarded my email to her to her too. 

Kind regards

Natalie McGarry

On behalf of Yes Glasgow

Rob Shorthouse:

Hello Natalie

Apologies for the delay.

I’ll pass your note onto our Glasgow group who will, I’m sure, respond.


5 October 2013
Billy McCauley
(BT student activist in Glasgow):

Hi Natalie,

Rob Shorthouse at Better Together passed your details onto me, and asked me to get back to you.

A debate does sound interesting, however, I hardly think that the referendum campaign has been lacking in debates, especially with the upcoming Strathclyde University mock referendum amongst others.

I agree, if we are going to do something, then doing it next year would probably be best. We already have a number of events booked in for January, so perhaps later in the year. Perhaps you could get back in touch with us early next year?

Many thanks,



Better Together Glasgow

McGarry to McCauley:


I am disappointed by your response. I don’t think that a university debate equates to a debate in an open public spectrum. 

I have, today, spoken to Anas Sarwar, and he was supportive of the idea. 

Should you not wish to be involved in the organisation or promotion of a Glasgow wide debate at this time, that is entirely up to you at Better Together to take that decision, however, we will be pressing ahead with an open forum, and will invite political representatives of the constituent parties which support a No vote. 

We had hoped that this could be an initiative that we worked on together in the interests of open democracy.

Is this a decision you have taken in isolation, or is it a representative position of the Better Together Glasgow Group?


McCauley to McGarry:

Hi Natalie,

Apologies if I wasn’t clear earlier, we are supportive of the idea. However, we already have a number of events planned for January 2014. Thus, we would happily revisit the subject with you after the new year.



McGarry to McCauley:


I appreciate you getting back to me, and I have clarified that you have invited us to get back in contact post January. 

That said, an event of this size and magnitude requires months of organisation and advertisement if it is to attract undecideds to attend. 

Negotiating this after January does not allow for much room to manoeuvre – especially given the regulated period kicking in in June – and many of us being busy campaigning actively for our own side. 

I have suggested two dates in January, or we can look at the beginning of February. We are agreeable to doing most of the organisation – subject to agreement between Yes Glasgow and Better Together’s counterpart grassroots campaign about constitution of event, chair and a joint advertising campaign. 

I urge you to reconsider your intention to postpone any discussions of feasibility. After January is too late.  



4 Feb 2014
Natalie McGarry to Rob Shorthouse, Blair McDougall

Dear Rob/Blair,

It is now 124 days since we first approached yourself and Better Together to discuss the joint hosting of a public debate in Glasgow.  For your reference, I have attached a copy of my initial communication.  At the time – after emailing yourself, Rob Murray, Blair McDougall and Kayleigh Quinn – I was eventually passed to Billy McCauley who replied on 5/10/13 to say that the main focus of your local campaign was the series of debates taking place at the University of Strathclyde. 

Given these are now halfway completed, with the penultimate one taking place next week, I am sure you and the rest of the team can turn your attention to the wider debate we would like you to actively participate in across the city.

There are now only 225 days from now until polling day.  It would be a disservice to the people of Glasgow to allow this period to go by without there being as wide a range of participation and discussion as possible – and I am sure you agree that a major part of this process must be public debates between representatives of our respective views on the matter.

Whilst our organisations represent opposite shades of opinion on the issue of independence, we can surely agree that the decision faced by the people of Glasgow and Scotland is of fundamental importance to the future of all, whether in favour, against, or undecided.  It is precisely this latter group for whom the kind of open, public forum we are proposing is so important.

We would be delighted if both local campaigns could meet timeously as to expedite the arrangements for jointly hosting such a debate, including issues such as the venue, funding, publicity, format, and the involvement of third party campaign groups at the event.

We look forward to a speedy and constructive response.

Yours etc.

Natalie McGarry

On behalf of Yes Glasgow

Rob Shorthouse

Hi Natalie

Thanks for the note.

I don’t think that there is a gaping hole in the debate market that we need to fill. I don’t really see the need for us to have a specific debate organised by the campaigns when there are so many debates organised by third parties which both campaigns are participating in.



Natalie McGarry


Thank you for your quick response. However, in responding so quickly, I don’t think you have taken full cognisance of the exclusion of most ordinary Glaswegians from access to information from – and to and question – both sides of the debate.

Clearly there are debates organised by third sector organisations, schools and universities, but I fail to see where there are genuine opportunities for the general public to access the same opportunity to get involved. I am sure it is not an unsurprising fact to you that the vast majority of people who will vote in the referendum do not fall in to any one of the groups above, are aware that some exist or that they hold debates which are open to people outwith those institutions or organisations.

For example, the reasoning for Better Together’s refusal to engage at the beginning of our correspondence was based on the time and resources being devoted to a series of debates and mock referendum at the University of Strathclyde.  Whilst all and any efforts to involve societal groups are always welcome, it is hard to see how these events fulfil a wider purpose in terms of including as wide an audience demographic as possible.

Additionally, a high-profile, widely publicised open debate, involving many of the key players on either side of the argument, and with the backing of both campaigns and their infrastructure, will attract a much greater degree of public attention than the, by their nature, smaller-scale events you refer to.

If you can disprove this and show where real community engagement is going on, I would welcome that input.

From a Yes Glasgow perspective, we are open, transparent and unafraid to argue our position on independence. To that end we have, and continue to hold meetings across Glasgow with the locales becoming ever smaller.  These are accessible to any member of the public and are advertised as such.  

Only tonight, for example, the local Yes group are hosting a public meeting in Scotstoun, explicitly advertised and promoted for undecided voters.  There certainly appears to be no similar commitment from Better Together to local engagement.  Handing out leaflets at train stations has all the appearance of a sticking plaster over a lack of real grassroots communitarianism.  Not all folk are at train stations of a morning and evening.

Whilst Yes Glasgow are committed to our strategy of engaging with people in their communities, we are very aware that people would like to be able to ask questions of and compare and contrast the messages from both sides of the debate.  We are confident enough in our arguments to put them in a public arena directly opposed yours – can you say the same?

In signing off, I urge you to send me examples where you think genuine debate is advertised and attracts local and disengaged people, and whilst I wait for that, I urge you to reconsider your immediate negative.

We have a real opportunity to work together to ensure that the electorate goes in to the biggest democratic question of our lives fully informed. It would be a shame to let that opportunity fall by the wayside.


Rob Shorthouse

Hello again Natalie

I don’t agree with your assessment that people are being excluded.



Natalie McGarry


Thank you for your considered response to all the points in my email.

Whilst you seem reticent to address the inequality of access to information from Better Together, we will continue to ensure that our campaign, at least, is engaging with voters at community level.

Given how important we consider these debates, we commit to organising them with or without your assistance and will approach representatives from the No side of the debate individually.

Rob Shorthouse

Best of British!

Natalie McGarry


Despite the tone of your previous replies, I’d imagine our invite to join us for a voter registration programme – which is forthcoming – won’t be met with the same pithy disregard; especially given that tomorrow is the Bite the Ballot initiative, National Voter Registration Day.

I can see no occasion for raising an objection to any attempt to increase the number of participants in the referendum. Extending the reach of democracy must surely be the aim of all fair-minded campaigners.

I look forward to a positive response in this regard and hope that Yes Glasgow and our Better Together counterparts can coalesce around ensuring fair access to democracy.

Yours etc

Rob Shorthouse

Hi Natalie

Great to hear from you again.

We will be doing our own voter registration events.




And that was that. Readers can determine for themselves the validity of the excuses offered by “Better Together” for dodging the debate. Is it reasonable to decline an opportunity to make and argue your case to hundreds of members of the public just because there are occasional debates on TV? Is it a service to democracy, and an indication of confidence, to only engage with the public in situations where nobody can dispute your claims?

We have our view, of course. But we’re grateful that at least this time nobody’s had the police called on them, and Natalie McGarry hasn’t had her wrist broken. We suppose we should chalk that up as some sort of progress.

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  1. 07 05 14 11:48

    Doubt? «

  2. 03 09 16 17:28

    The Why of No | A Wilderness of Peace

  3. 31 07 18 15:45

    Doubt? – Bella Caledonia

105 to “Failure to engage”

  1. alexicon says:

    They simply have no answers.

  2. William Duguid says:

    The most negative campaign of all time?

  3. alexicon says:

    Liken what you’ve just read with the email I received today.

    For anybody interested in attending see details below.

    “On 18th September this year, the people of Scotland are being invited to take part in a referendum on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The Scottish Government recently published Scotland’s Future, setting out its case for independence. Scottish Government Ministers are hosting discussions in communities across the country to talk about Scotland’s Future. This is your chance to ask questions about the issues that are important to you.

    Next Event:

    Tuesday 11th February at Falkirk Townhall,
    Westbridge Street, Falkirk, FK1 5RS

    (Doors open from 11.30 am for a 12.00 start)

    Hosted by:

    John Swinney MSP
    Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth

    Register for the event now:

    By Email –
    (please put Falkirk in the subject line)”

    Now that’s open and transparent for you.

  4. desimond says:

    Rob Shorthouse…say it fast and it sounds appropriate.

    Natalie was far too nice there, she can walk away saying “Hey I tried to help them help everyone”. Robs getting his 100k a year, does anyone think he actually cares?

  5. Craig Brown says:

    I hope the referendum isn’t lost due to the pure stupidity of those involved with Better Together, and the media’s reluctance to tell the truth.

  6. Stuart Black says:

    Shameful flippancy, and shows an equally shameful disregard for the importance of democratic discourse and informing the public, but hearteningly indicative that they’re on the run. 🙂

  7. Ray says:

    Rob must be too busy for long replies. Too busy doing what, though, I’m not sure. Finally getting round to reading the white paper?

  8. kininvie says:

    I don’t really see the need for us to have a specific debate organised by the campaigns when there are so many debates organised by third parties which both campaigns are participating in.

    To paraphrase: “We’re content to let the BBC do our work for us”

  9. Training Day says:

    They have rightly styled themselves as Project Fear, not only because their sole modus operandi is to purvey groundless scare stories, but also because they themselves live in fear of exposure to debate, to challenge and to critical analysis.

    The tone of their email responses evinces a mindset that is comfortable, indeed complacent, in the belief that their lies can be protected from exposure by the BBC/STV/MSM.

    Truly, no organisation deserves to founder and fail more than Project Fear.

  10. Greannach says:

    It would be great to have this correspondence more widely known and accessible to the public. I am taken aback by the flippant and bumptious tone of much of the No Better Together UKOK side. It’s not reassuring to see the public being dismissed in such a cavalier fashion, although that may well stem from the No side’s innate imperial superiority. Even so, it’s distasteful to see ordinary people behind held in contempt as though not worth bothering with. Very British.

  11. Now, now, Ray. Unionists can read the complete 660 pages of the white paper in no more than a few minutes. Ask Comical Ally Darling.

  12. HandandShrimp says:

    So what events did they have in January?

    I can’t recall them doing much of anything.

    I’m not convinced they want volatile open discussion. They tend to lose these debates. Their strategy, their only strategy, seems to be placing daily scare stories with safe journalists in the press and TV and rely on a relentless barrage of negativity.

    Even their 500,000 leaflets things was more show than substance as we ably demonstrated when we all went along to watch. They moaned about photographs but photographing an empty train station doesn’t rate high on the intimidation stakes.

  13. alexicon says:


    Classic photobomb. Well done that Lass.

    Please help! How do I get my avatar on here?

  14. MajorBloodnok says:

    “Best of British!” eh?

    What a twat.

  15. turnbull drier says:

    why enter a fight you know you cant win..

    They require everyone to be mushrooms to stand a chance.. Hopefully we can be the light and remove the shite.

  16. Lewis Holleran says:

    Reminiscent of JL’s response to the ATOS questioning in Penilee:

    “I dinnae agree with ye”

    Those with weak arguments often avoid debate.

  17. gordoz says:

    Typical fair from the British division camped in scotland.

    “Better Together” Director of Communications ?

    From the evidence presented is the above not a contradiction ? He did not seem to want to either participate or effectively communicate.

    Rob Shorthaus ? … ahh yes, a proudscot supporter of all things British – fine ‘nough said.

    Ricky Burns has a very good memory apparently.

    What were all the covert January events does anyone know ?

  18. kalmar says:

    Lol @ Comical Alistair

  19. Seasick Dave says:

    I believe that our local High School / Community Campus has decided that no posters will be allowed to advertise meetings or debates regarding the Referendum.

    Any advice?

  20. beachthistle says:

    Invititation/vetted only and students… Project Feart

  21. gordoz says:

    Will this attempt to debate be covered on Scotland tonight ?

  22. Andy-B says:

    Its clear that BT want no part of Natalie’s debate, and have constantly fobbed her off, the words running scared spring to mind, and so they should be. Natalie McGarry is right though, Scotland’s largest city should be having far more independence debates, than is currently happening.

  23. Luigi says:

    BT are obligate media parasites. I have a feeling that this complete dependency on biased MSM reporting will come back to haunt them. As many posters have implied, take away the protection of MSM and BT would collapse within a week.

  24. Holebender says:

    @Craig Brown, you seem to think that Better Together’s behaviour is actually working for them. In that case they’re hardly likely to change.

    Personally, I believe they’re harming their cause so I’m happy for them to continue.

  25. MajorBloodnok says:

    I like Natalie’s style – glad she’s on our side.

    I think YES Glasgow should arrange and advertise the events, invite BT in good time, and just empty chair them when they don’t turn up. The Glasgow public will get the message.

  26. Turinsday says:

    In a day of damning reveals from the No side, this one takes the biscuit.

  27. deerokus says:

    As a former Strathclyde student, the level of engagement with student politics at that university is extremely low, and pretty much the exclusive domain of the wannabe-Labour MPs who comprise the NUS cartel, who use it as a rung on the career ladder. Everyone else (quite rightly) ignores it. If BT thinks that is some kind of democratic engagement with the general public…

  28. Luigi says:

    At this rate, we may have to organise debates with cardboard cut-outs of BT reps.

    Now there’s an idea (we would get more sense out of them than the real thing)!

  29. A2 says:

    Quite simply The Labour core faithful are not prepared to co-operate with any SNP representative on anything no matter how sensible it is. Its not just a referendum thing, sigh… if only the people who vote for them could see it, but they aren’t watching.

  30. The Penman says:

    As has been commented before, Better Together are playing for a 0-0 draw. They don’t need to convince anyone, they just need to stop Yes convicing anyone.

  31. Jamie Arriere says:

    I think the Yes side will just have to organise the events, invite Better Together,and if they don’t show up, publish their refusal or use this correspondence above to show what kind of people they are.

    Invite any No speaker/voter to represent their side if they want to. Then carry on with the debate and remain as open as possible.

    The people will engage with that, even if our opponents won’t!

  32. heedtracker says:

    I watched big cheese Blair McDougall on non debate BetterTogetherBBC explain how he wants more devo but devo taking power out of Westminster AND Holyrood, giving it directly to Scottish Labour councils. So it would have been lovely to hear him explain how BetterTogether vote no to indy and yes to non devo devo might happen in these end of union times because the nice BBC man didn’t ask the big old liar, what a surprise.

  33. desimond says:

    There is some logic in the (feart) mindset when you stop and think on it from a unionist bunker point of view.

    Their attitude is that the YES campaign must come and TAKE independence, nothing shall be given. If they therefore deem arguing hard facts as a liability, they wont cede this opportunity to YES campaigners regardless of any public-spirirted talk about helping voters.

    The NO campaigns job is not to help voters decide, its the opposite, its to ensure voters dont think. Keep whats what!

    The No Campaign heads therefore deem it a safer bet to abstain( hello Scottish Labour tactics) and gamble that any non-decided are less likely to turn up at for one sided debate rather than contribute to a debate and take the risk the public engage.

    Sad but true.

  34. Schiehallion! Schiehallion! says:

    Best of British – what, exactly?

  35. Neil McAdam says:

    Why doesn’t she just go ahead and arrange a debate anyway?
    Tell BT that they are invited, and provide 3 seats for them on the platform, (as she initially suggested.)

    If they turn up, great. (I’m confident we’ll win the argument.)

    If they don’t: She has proof that she almost begged them to attend.

    It’s a win/win.

  36. Craig P says:

    ‘Voter registration events’ eh?

  37. Neil McAdam says:

    Sorry I see MajorBloodnok made that suggestion already!

  38. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Could we crowdfund a debate with Wings and anybody of rank in the Better Naw side.

    If they do not respond to the invitation or do not turn up then, plan B.

    We have people like Dennis Canavan, Ivan , Rev Stu, anyone up for it asking questions to the empty chairs and then, with the aid of the Bruvs and Siss who are electronic ganes media savvy have some spliced videos of “interviews” of them, McD, Darling etc played back with the Yes side responding to their answers. The dummies would then be invited to respond and voila, nowt.

    Just a minor twist of parallel reality folks?

  39. heraldnomore says:

    This guy Shorthouse is a real PR guru isn’t he. Bearing in mind that his current job can best be described as a short term contract, this exchange will look brilliant on his cv after the P45 arrives in September.

    But then again The Party will no doubt ride to his rescue, or their broadcast arm.

  40. Salt Ire says:

    Thanks for posting this exchange. Sometimes it’s hard to ably describe the condescension that BT espouses – but this sums it up nicely.

  41. desimond says:

    I believe this old phrase sums up the Better Together debating Strategy (and especially Mr Shorthouses attitude above) :

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”

  42. G H Graham says:

    NO camp …”We demand answers to our questions.”

    YES camp … “Here are some answers.”

    NO camp … “They are not the answers we want.”

    YES camp … “Here’s a detailed explanation.”

    No camp … “Your explanation is crap. We want answers.”


  43. Craig P says:

    Tell BT that they are invited, and provide 3 seats for them on the platform, (as she initially suggested.)

    She’d better bring three tubs of margarine then.

    (After a guest on Have I Got News For You was replaced by one.)

  44. Garve says:

    Rob Shorthouse says Better Together are supplying people to speak at “hundreds of debates”. I asked him if he had a list. His reply was most helpful.

    “@G4rve yes, i do thanks.”

  45. Jamie Arriere says:


    Cooking up their postal vote list?

  46. Les Wilson says:

    MajorBloodnok says

    I agree with your post, entirely!

  47. call me dave says:

    Just on the Herald few minutes ago. Too short to archive.

    Ian Paisley: vote for Scottish independence would drive wedge into hearts and souls of Northern Ireland

    A vote for Scottish independence would drive a “wedge into the hearts and souls” of Northern Ireland, one of its MPs claimed today.

    Speaking against a yes vote on September 18, Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley said a vote for independence in Scotland would ensure further division in Northern Ireland.

    Addressing Sir Gerald Howarth who had been speaking against separation during a debate on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, he said: “Do you agree with me that the unnerving and unsettling effect that a division in this wonderful union would have is that it would get the tails up of Irish republicans in my part of the kingdom, and would drive another wedge into the hearts and souls of people in Ulster?”

    Sir Gerald replied: “Of course you are absolutely right to make that analogy,and to point to the consequences – the unforeseen consequences – to which the Scottish National Party does not wish to draw attention.”

  48. Robert Kerr says:


    Glad to see nothing has changed at the Glasgow Tech.

    It changed to Uni when i was a student.

  49. Andy-B says:

    Not surprised to learn that question asked,by Tories at PM’s questions, in the House of Commons are fixed, in order to give David Cameron an easy ride.

  50. chalks says:

    OR we could organise a couple of members of a pseudo BT group.

  51. gordoz says:


    Spot on – thats a great idea and would be well attended regardless.

    @The Penman says

    Point well made and very true


    The level of engagement with student politics at Glasgow Caledonian University is extremely low also, and pretty much the exclusive domain of the wannabe-Labour MPs who comprise the Student assoc. Oh and they do have that big hitting / big thinker – Brian Wilson onside.

  52. Marcia says:

    I would tell Yes Scotland to arrange their meetings and arrange to have someone speak for a No vote away from BT. They might change their tune then.

    I see that Business for Scotland and having a meeting in Dundee soon which is open to the public. I have a couple of d/k going to it which is encouraging when they were steadfast No last year.

  53. Andy-B says:

    Here’s East Ayrshire councillor,s accepting expensive gifts from open cast mining firms, in order for favours, this has left the council £132 million quid short, to repair the environmental damage caused by the mines.

    Luxury trips to the Camp Nou and Old Trafford, were among the gifts, nice if you can get it.

  54. Ananurhing says:

    Parhaps Natalie should just organise the gig, hire a bunch of look alikes, and ask Paul Sinclair to give them a script. No one will know the difference.

  55. theycan'tbeserious says:

    What they said!

  56. Morag says:

    Great post over on Derek Bateman’s blog by someone called Dunkie.

  57. heedtracker says: Here’s Mr Shorthouse debaterising in Dunoon or more accurately, putting the fear of God up pensioners in Dunoon plus taking credit for stuff you didn’t do. Whatever they say about top BetterTogether campaigners like Mr Shorthouse, they are really really really great and inspirational public speakers, really, so vote no.

  58. gordoz says:

    Agree Morag – great post

  59. MajorBloodnok says:


    I think it was John Prescott who was replaced by the tub of lard on HIGNFY – and naturally his team (with Paul Merton assisting) won.

  60. Big Red Machine says:

    Their absence at these organised debates would speak volumes to the undecided voters. Even distribute copies of the correspondence from BT to further drive home the message of their utter reluctance to engage. This is a plus, not a minus.

  61. Clootie says:


    You must be a mind reader – the very phrase that came to mind as I read the article.

    “The best of British” response gives an amazing insight to the mindset…!

  62. Richard says:

    I suspect a lot of us are willing to take a stab at the better together debating position. Imagine the stink that would cause. How would they complain?

    I go along with the idea that they do not want the population to be informed. They do not wish to come forward with a vision for Scotland in the UK because that would give people contrasting visions to consider. The strategy is to rubbish the YES campaign with the aid of the press. That’s it. No other strategy apart from the contrived set piece.

    Interesting piece of information of a meeting in Gartocharn recently. The meeting was publicised as a better together event but nobody locally seems to have seen the advertising for it. Turns out it was a lecture about a book on travel that appears to have been hijacked as ‘an event’.

    This is a PR campaign only. Classic New Labour Spin that Tory Blair and Gordon Brown will be proud of. How do you fight cotton wool?

    I don’t favour the empty chair. People want answers to questions. We already know about the way ahead, maybe someone can be persuaded to give people what they want.

  63. Andy-B says:

    The academics among us say that we should vote for independence with our heads and not our hearts, but isn’t the reason we’re voting for independence, because we love someone or something, and wish better things for it,or them, and doesn’t love come from the heart.

  64. Arbroath 1320 says:

    I’m going to an open independence debate tomorrow night in Eskdalemuir, at least I think it’s tomorrow night :), where Joan MacAlpine and Scotland’s answer to David Cameron, the one…the only…David Mundell, will be amongst the panel. Hmm…interesting. I wonder if the Borders hospital has been warned to go onto standby. 🙂

  65. Archie [not Erchie] says:

    @ alexicon 4:24pm – You can change your Gravatar using the walk through posted in August 2013.

    @ Rev Stu – Is it possible to add the Gravatar walk through to the Wings reference section?

  66. Taranaich says:

    MajorBloodnok: I think YES Glasgow should arrange and advertise the events, invite BT in good time, and just empty chair them when they don’t turn up. The Glasgow public will get the message.

    @Neil McAdam: Why doesn’t she just go ahead and arrange a debate anyway?

    I endorse such an idea.

    At this rate, we may have to organise debates with cardboard cut-outs of BT reps.

    Or, as Craig P suggested, their equivalent in rendered porcine adipose tissue:

    (To be frank, the entire debate’s starting to seem like that episode…)

  67. Craig P says:

    To get back to my first and strongest impression from this article. What does Rob Shorthouse mean by voter registration event? Are they harvesting postal votes? Perhaps trying to lock current no voters into a commitment to no where they might change their mind? I’m not sure how the whole thing would work or, given the low numbers involved, what the point would be.

    Could anybody enlighten me as to the thought process behind calling independence debates ‘voter registration events’?

  68. jingly jangly says:

    O/T Yes Aberdeenshire saying more in the FT today regarding Independence including an online vote.

    Unfortunately I have run out of “views” can somebody go in and the articles!!!

  69. Macart says:

    Well who knew?

    They’re really not up for it are they? You get the feeling that they are truly afraid of audience questions without an onside studio manager and someone to vet the public beforehand.

  70. tartanfever says:

    Craig P –

    Basically yes, you’ve got it.

    BT are trying to get people to sign up all their info – personal details, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, family members along with who you will vote for and how you are going to vote.

    If you say you are an undecided postal voter then you can guarantee that some shady shenanigans will be going on.

    ‘Let us take care of your ballot paper Mrs MacDonald, we have someone in the area who can help you fill that in’

  71. heedtracker says:

    Are they harvesting postal votes? O/T a bit but I got a very swish brochure this morn from Strathallan public school flogging me the opportunity of a lifetime for my little darlings. I frae Aberdeen so its a bit weird plus I saw the frightfully bad mannered tweeting from Strathallan pupils and

  72. heedtracker says:

    and but the point is, how are they collecting addresses like this?

  73. Les Wilson says:

    Seems to me that YES could work this to their advantage, which is, to do what they are going to do in Glasgow. Which is to hold the event, all events, and invite BT to attend. The won’t of course.

    Is it not it could be advertised as Better Together invited, which would be true, so people will expect them, but will be indignant when there is a no show.

    The audience would not be happy with them, not even bothering to show up. Door open for Yes?

  74. Craig Brown says:

    Too many people still complain there is too many unanswered questions, better together agree with them (while hiding from all mature conversation), the media never shuts up about it and I’m sure I could answer every single one of those questions! If better together had a real debate with Yes Scotland with a competent mediator (no lies allowed), the question of ‘should we be an independent country’ would be replaced with ‘how best should we mould our new country’.

  75. Dal Riata says:

    One word – cowards.

    How must it feel to be so unsure of your own campaign and how ‘the common people’ people might react to it in open debate?

    I do wonder if Better Together ‘representatives’ such as Rob “Best of British” Shorthouse sleep soundly at night? Does he ever think to himself in the wee, wee hours, “Why me?”? I, for one, hope he does.

  76. Les Wilson says:

    heedtracker says:
    6 February, 2014 at 6:07 pm
    Are they harvesting postal votes?

    Yes they certainly will be, they always do. SG must be aware but what are they doing about it, or at least to counter it ?

  77. Aldo says:

    This is just awesome. Let’s not debate,let’s not engage, let’s not encourage people to vote.

    Best keep schtoom. Best of British!

  78. Ericmac says:

    There should be a huge Independence Conference.
    Somewhere that holds between 2000 – 3000 people.
    A whole day event, videoed.
    A range of speakers and subjects.

    After a YES Vision
    After a NO Vision
    The Polls
    Scotland’s Businesses and Industries – opportunities.

    And it wouldn’t matter whether BT were involved or not.

  79. rab-the-doubter says:

    “BT are trying to get people to sign up all their info – personal details, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, family members along with who you will vote for and how you are going to vote.”
    Im no expert but this sounds like a potential breach of Data Protection Laws. Maybe someone should be auditing them.

  80. Flower of Scotland says:

    Who cares what MR Bigot himself , The Right Rev Ian Paisley , thinks ! Let’s tell him to keep his horrible nose out of our business .
    I thought Natalie was a great candidate in the Cowdenbeath by Election , unfortunately the Labour voters were hoodwinked by the lying Alex Rowley ! There was even youtube evidence of his lying but the labour vote is deeply ingrained in the local culture. Natalie should just go ahead and when the NO side don’t turn up it’ll speak for itself .

  81. Jon D says:


    This is, I think the FT article to which you refer.
    Interesting analysis, comments and consequences

  82. call me dave says:

    Getting people to register for voting.

  83. 1971Thistle says:

    There is an explanation; Better Together is tying up resources of Yes Scotland. Appearing willing, while humming and hawing, preventing them using their time where it woudl make a difference.

    It’s like canvassing. If you knock on a door, and the people there invite you in for a cup of tea and a chat, its not because they support you – it’s to stop you canvassing.

    If they really wanted to help they would send you straight back out to knock on a few more doors.

  84. Flower of Scotland says:

    O/t thanks Andy-B for fabulous Independence trailer . I’ve put it on my facebook page !

  85. alexicon says:

    @ Archie[not Erchie]

    Thank you, as you can see I now have my avatar. Not the easiest thing to do, a couple of goes, but successful none the less.


    We all know the reason why Labour MPs in Scotland are so afraid and I think this is the first time it has been said in print.

  86. heedtracker says:

    @ Les Wilson. Its interesting that a week after same Strathallan private school that hosted the latest deeply vote no biased BBC audience debate is now mailshotting parents across Scotland and how did they get my address kind of thing?! It looked like a hundred percent private school no in the Strathallan audience and here in the North East, BetterTogether stuff from the likes Shorthouse is telling teenagers that if they vote yes, they are going to lose all the jobs and careers that the UK provides.

  87. Ian says:

    I went to a Biz for Scotland hosted debate. One of those evening s where you nearly feel sad for the poor Tory guy.

    Hesummed up the evening by suggesting “if you don’t know for certain, you must vote NO”

    The riposte is “when you do know for certain you will vote YES”

  88. DaveyM says:

    Mr Shorthouse was at the same uni as me. People had a few ‘inventive’ nicknames for him then, and he seems to have managed to live up to every single one of them.

  89. call me dave says:


    I expect that the SNP will put up candidates for Westminster if only to get some clout. Discussions on the independence deal will be ongoing and we need all the representation we can get.

    It’s a one year SNP contract for the good of the country.
    Labour may have a few ‘big hitters’ trying to get a foothold in the Scottish parliament with only a few will bite the bullet for a years salary at Westminster.

  90. Archie [not Erchie] says:

    @ alexicon – Well done and no mistaking you now. 🙂

  91. rabb says:

    As those on here who know me will testify I’m not one for the casual use of superlatives but the no campaign’s apathetic stance is truly fucking epic!

    Yes Glasgow should send the invites out to no, go ahead with it and then let the public see just how much contempt the naysayers have for them.

    Point made and a whole load of previously undecided voters moved to yes and furthering the cause in their communities & family circles.

  92. John grant says:

    Shortarse is an arrogant swine and while we are at Ivan McKee on the bbc yesterday the interviewer did not have the courtesy to give McKee his name

  93. Colin Dunn says:

    “I think it was John Prescott who was replaced by the tub of lard on HIGNFY”

    Roy Hattersley

  94. Semus says:

    O/T after hearing from JoLa that Asda,Morrisons and Sainsburies are agin YES…as well as BP and Mackies,Tunnocks and Baxter foods.Coud all WOS readers not do as I am doing.Boycott the nyaffs.WE shop at Lidl and Aldi,and save money.I buy petrol from a local garage,a few pence dearer but at least it is not feeding the BT industries. I remember Eire had such a boycott it was called “Garanteed Irish” It worked well.The annoyance delighted them..Or am I on my own?

  95. call me dave says:


    BP and Mackies,Tunnocks and Baxter are all off my list which I said on another thread yesterday. Lidl and Aldi are close to me and I use them both. I have to admit using ASDA once a week though.

    I promise to put that right… OK 🙂

    Oh TV license gone!

  96. Aidan says:

    I laughed out loud when I heard Hayley Millar on Good Morning Scotland this morning, going over the headlines of the day (an hour and 56 minutes in on the iplayer). She was talking about the Herald’s front page leading with Vince Cable on the location of RBS HQ:

    “the on-going row over the effect of independence on jobs and the economy in Scotland was intensified when he said, or rather he WARNED, that…”

  97. Thistle says:

    I also tried to get BT to put somebody up for a live stream debate but all went silent.

  98. I’m not what one would call a yes voter, nor am I on the Better Together side. I have tried to stay neutral in all of this as while being Scottish, I no longer live in the country(but apparently its OK in the eyes of Alistair Darling that a foreigner who doesn’t live in Scotland can have a say *cough* Mr Bob Dudley *cough*, but I digress on that point). Both sides have a moral obligation to debate each other in public at every available opportunity. It’s called democracy and people have a right to hear both sides argue their cases, and then question those very individuals who are putting their cases forward. That is not happening. Better Together are picking and choosing their battles in environments that would be favourable to them. Why Strathclyde? Why not Glasgow University, where there is actually a fully fledged debates chamber and a long history of debates? It boggles the mind that they wimp out and choose a *safe* Labour stronghold University instead.

    I’m of the belief that at this point the Better Together campaign is comfortable with setting up strawmen in empty chairs and then laying the beatdown upon it. One just has to look no further than their comments and actions after Mr Carney said his speech last week. They literally created a strawman out of nothing and then proceeded to spend an entire pamphlet worth of paper beating upon said strawman. Then given the chance, they refuse to even defend that strawman argument when asked to debate in public. They don’t trust the people. I actually ended up dedicating a page in my blog just to that complete mindscrew of a Better Together reaction to Mr Carney (coincidentally I also used the same Clint Eastwood GOP convention scene as an example of how nuts this all is).

    Actions not words are needed from both sides. I see one side ready to engage, but the other refusing to do so because they are currently ahead and don’t want to waste that lead.

  99. Silverytay says:

    I already boycott Tunnocks , Mackies and Baxters but I would not be to hard on the supermarkets .

    The last time project fear tried to use the supermarkets as a scare the supermarkets dismissed the story within hours and if my memory serves me right Morrisons went as far as to say food prices could fall in an independent Scotland .

    I will however be adding B.P to my list of banned companies .

  100. MajorBloodnok says:

    @Colin Dunn

    I stand corrected. Lard Hattersley and Lard Prescott are easily confused (as am I).

  101. Peter Macbeastie says:

    It speaks volumes that, when confronted with a long, detailed email, Rob Shorthouse responds with at most a couple of lines which do not even attempt to engage with points raised.

    I get the feeling he wouldn’t want a debate because he would get eaten alive by even the mildest of independence supporters. I am no great public speaker, but even I would fancy my chances against his considered level of expertise.

  102. Peter Macbeastie says:

    Silverytay; but of course, that fact about the supermarkets dismissing the Better Together claims hasn’t stopped them issuing quotes by the various CEO’s of the supermarkets which they claim all mean we would have higher grocery prices.

    They clearly have taken the Scottish Government drive on recycling very seriously; they recycle their crap all the time.

  103. Gary says:

    Their stock in trade Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. F.U.D.

  104. RobQos says:

    Just looking back at this article. Interesting in the last few days we have had both Gordon Brown and George Osbourne running away from questions on the STV news!

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